(This essay was first published in the May 27th edition of the Escondido Times-Advocate Newspaper)
Memorial Day is a special occasion. I don't like to celebrate it. Instead of having a barbecue and a few beers, I tend to be contemplative and emotional. It is a day for reflection. I don't want to sound somber, but recognizing the death of millions of people is nothing if not sobering.
My family will usually attend a service nearby. We listen to politicians officiate, reminding us how lucky we are to be Americans, to have choices, to live and work wherever we want to. Then a high ranking military representative will speak eloquently about the honorable role of our nation's defenders. They will remind us to recognize the sacrifices service members make, and to honor family members who lost their loved ones to war.
When the prayer is offered, I always get a surge of emotion that those who made the ultimate sacrifice somehow share with me. Their spirit occupies me for a few precious moments and inspires me to do more to serve my community. I can only hope that everyone takes some time to remember their supreme sacrifice.
As a day of remembrance, this Memorial Day will be different for me. This year I will pay my respects to the sacrifices being made by those who have fought on the front lines of the worldwide war on COVID19. I will think about health care workers who left their families to serve other families, the volunteers who rallied resources to fill in for lost paychecks, and for those whose lives were lost to the villainous virus. They all deserve to be remembered as warriors.
We should pay respects to COVID19 victims in senior care centers who died alone with no one to comfort them. They were in effect soldiers fighting to survive, facing a ruthless killer that outnumbered them. The lockdowns left them alone on the battlefield with no air cover. We need to keep them in our prayers.
We should all revere their families who were denied the chance to comfort their elders at the end of their life's journey. They had to stand down and wait for the dreaded Notification Detail to deliver bad news.
You may say, aren't you confusing Memorial Day for Veterans Day? Isn't Memorial Day supposed to be exclusively for paying tribute to soldiers who gave their lives in service to our country? And the answer is of course, yes. But this past Year of The Pandemic has taken a steep toll. Americans have suffered the loss of jobs and businesses, of freedom to travel, to gather, to attend schools and churches, and to celebrate New Years, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Lots of people have died from the COVID19 virus, but some people have suffered serious health problems because they were denied timely diagnosis because of the lockdowns. It is likely many died that potentially could have survived had they seen a doctor sooner. I believe we should recognize those losses as tangible victims of war.
The war on the COVID19 virus is just one skirmish in a worldwide war on deadly disease. It is a multilateral struggle to secure a world free from dominance by microscopic enemies that invade our bodies and try to kill us. It is a war that involves all of us, all of the time.
This Memorial Day, I will pay tribute to all those who put their lives on the line protecting our freedom from fear of some malevolent controlling force, be it fascism, communism, cancer or a virulent virus.
I urge all Americans to remember that our freedom is always under attack, not just by authoritarian regimes and armies, but by nature, too. Preserving freedom for the next generation requires an unwavering commitment to pay the price, whatever it may be. We don't want to be the generation that fumbles the ball when the game is on the line.
It is our job to remember what to remember.