Don’t take the remembrance out of Memorial Day

May 24, 2019 in Guest Post, Rabbi Greg Harris

This week is the fourth week of the month. For Reflections Off the Bimah, the fourth week features thought leaders from throughout the Jewish world and beyond. These special posts give you the opportunity to consider important opinions you may not readily encounter.  As we are entering the Memorial Day weekend, this blog was originally posted in ‘The Hill’ in 2017.  It reminds of the men and women who lost their lives in defense of our country.  To them and their families, we owe a great debt.  זֵכֶר צדִּיק לִבְרָכָה – May the memory of the righteous be blessed.


Don’t take the remembrance out of Memorial Day

originally posted: May 28, 2017, The Hill

By Cliff Sosamon

What does Memorial Day mean to you? Is it a day off work, time spent grilling with family and friends? A day to grab the hottest discounts on cars and electronics – perhaps a needed new mattress? Or maybe a day to catch a game and enjoy a cold one or two?

It seems over the years Memorial Day has come to represent the luxuries of Western society and the best sales since Presidents’ Day. Retailers are more than willing to give the American public just what they want – sales.

However, for those of us who have served, and the families of those who did not come home, it is anything but a retail holiday. Memorial Day to us is a somber day of remembrance. It is a day to honor the ultimate sacrifice so many of our brothers and sisters in arms have made for this exceptional nation. To remember this country was founded – and kept secure – by the blood of patriots. Men and women who’ve heeded the call to stand the ramparts and defend all that we hold dear: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The day was first observed after the Civil War and known as Decoration Day. Businesses closed and communities came together in a day of honor and remembrance. They decorated the graves of fallen soldiers with flags and flowers. They set time aside, one and all, to honor those who fought for freedom. In 1971, this long-standing tradition was recognized as a federal holiday meant as a time for our nation to come together as one and recognize the cost of freedom.

To many, Memorial Day has come to signify the start of summer and a well-deserved three-day weekend. For the families who have lost a loved one, and those who’ve lost a comrade in arms to the ravages of war, it is a day of honor and reaffirming the promise to not let their sacrifice have been in vain.

It is a day in which we laugh at their antics, stand tall with honor for having them in our lives, and cry – for they are no longer with us. We are proud to carry on their memory and do so at one of the thousands of Memorial Day events around this great land, or at one of the thousands of cemeteries at which they now lay at rest.

Sure, we will enjoy a family cookout and a cold one, but we should also set time aside to honor our fallen. Memorial Day to us is a somber day, a happy and prideful day. These great warriors filled our lives and sacrificed everything to ensure we sleep peacefully at night under the protective blanket of freedom they helped provide.

So, on May 29th, take your loved ones to a Memorial Day event, or place the Stars and Stripes on the gravesite of an American military service member, or set time aside to reflect on the sacrifices that have been made to ensure we remain the land of the free.

Cliff Sosamon is a 2014 Congressional Commendation Award recipient and the executive director of Honor Courage Commitment, Inc. HCC empowers veterans to define their next mission through education, mentorship and community service.

(Image not original to the post.)