Tomorrow, Americans will celebrate Memorial Day. A federal holiday designated as a moment of remembrance for those who gave their lives for this country, it is our most solemn tradition. Ask almost any servicemember or veteran, and they’ll tell you the same.
At the same time, I’d like to propose something bold. While honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, I ask that you consider those who are making that sacrifice right now. Heroes aren’t just buried six feet under for uncommon valor, nor do they necessarily wear uniforms.
Of course, just proposing that idea may rankle or trigger those who are emotionally vested in the military industrial complex. To mainstream conservatives, this sounds like outrage…outrage as they wolf down their artificially processed hot dogs and creamy cheese nachos. What exactly does gluttony have to do with Memorial Day?
And I think that’s the point: we’ve become so accustomed to associating heroism exclusively with military service what that word means. Merriam-Webster has several definitions for the word hero, two of which I’ll share below:
“a person admired for achievements and noble qualities” and “one who shows great courage.”
Now, a Marine running into enemy fire to save his wounded brothers-in-arms represents the most acute form of heroism. For that, we owe our gratitude. But it’s also the most elemental or even guttural form of heroism. Recognizing this term in higher, nuanced levels requires some basic cognizance.
Memorial Day an Opportunity to Recognize Accretive Heroes
Every country requires a strong military to protect the sanctity of their borders. And in no way am I diminishing the value of Memorial Day. Again, we should honor those who have fallen in this nation’s defense.
At the same time, I’m being realistic. How many of us truly honor our brave warriors? If we’re really being honest, most of us use Memorial Day as an excuse to slack off on a workday.
Thus, we have an opportunity during this holiday to positive shift the broader framework and discourse. Look around you: we have real-life, everyday heroes living and working among us anonymously.
I’m especially thinking about teachers. Factually, they have the most accretive job this country offers. No matter what occupation we choose in life, all of us owe gratitude toward our teachers. Without them, we would not have the core competencies and skills necessary to function as productive members of society.
Yet the government doesn’t really care to honor our teachers. They work tirelessly to educate and mold the future of America, and do so compensated at ridiculously low levels. In the meantime, we pay our military servicemembers at ridiculously high levels, even though approximately 80% of military occupational specialties do not involve combat.
Just think about that the next time you reach for your nachos.