As I fancy myself a wordsmith, words matter to me. They reveal thought or, too often, a complete absence of thought, on behalf of the speaker. So, when someone vacuously greets me with "Happy Memorial Day", it feels like one is inconsiderately saying happy "funeral day" when I'm on my way to bury my brother.
Freedom Ain't Free
Hold on a sec, what was that kid?
Did you really say that?
You haven't got a clue do ya?
Wait a minute, we need to chat.
You don't frivolously greet someone,
With, "Hi, Happy Memorial Day"
That's not how we honor their memory
That's not what you should say
This holiday is not about parties
Though I reckon it’s okay to have one
But remember to acknowledge tribute
To those who died so you could have that fun
The Declaration of Independence
Affirms as an inalienable right
Among others, the pursuit of happiness
But that's never been secured without a fight
You're not a Veteran I can tell Son
If you'd have served you'd understand
This is a somber day for reflecting thanks
For those battle-lost protecting this land
I know there ain’t a draft no more
So lots more of your generation than mine
Never stood tall for Old Glory in dress blues
Wouldn’t understand “dress right dress” to align
Ever heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor?
Or soldiers under a flag coming back?
Maybe you're aware of Vietnam or Korea?
Pray gratitude for them as you drink and snack
Don't get me all wrong here young man
I can sure enjoy the holiday too
But it grates on my ear when you say "happy"
Cuz today ain’t about happy for me and you
Sorry if I'm soundin' a mite riled here
I don't mean to be so all-fired gruff
It's a different culture today
Seems you young'uns think happy is enough
But I lost brothers in Vietnam
As my dad did in the Battle of the Bulge
Go Google "fallen soldiers"
Study what the internet will divulge
And the tribute goes back much further
Remembering those who gave their all
At Valley Forge, Tripoli or San Juan Hill
The numbers when counted will still apall
I'm bein' a little preachy on ya'
But their sacrifices must be respected
It's so important for us to remember
Our freedoms and the fallen are connected
You've probably got kinfolk too
Who lost lives due to violent bloodshed
Alone in a foreign, faraway land
Today's about respecting those noble dead
Go ponder in a veteran's cemetery
Assuming you’ve time and there’s one in reach
Contemplate those acres of warriors
Who kept us free by standing in the breach
You didn’t ask but here’s my suggestion
On your way to your barbeque today
Stop by a graveyard; thank some of the fallen
Here’s an example of what I might say
Having found graves of our perished
Sailors, airmen, soldiers or marines
I’d kneel alongside and pause my heart
Imagine their legacy and what it means
Thanks to your sacrifice Sir or Ma’am
I am blessed with freedoms and a vote
I acknowledge those gifts you gave to me
I’m grateful I'm here ... with a lump in my throat
by Rik Goodell
© 2023 All rights reserved
This David Graham painting is a somber reflection of the grit and sacrifice of those who have been the sentinels, some of whom gave their all, to preserve our sacred way of life.
To see more of this Montana artist's work, visit his website: