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It’s not about service. It’s about death.

Memorial Day, Gravestones, Cemetery, Flags

Photo by my beautiful friend, Reenie - @marleyone

Memorial Day.

I have a hard time with this Holiday.  Well, to be more specific – I have a hard time with the way the Holiday is “celebrated” these days.

Is it me, or for many people, has Memorial Day just become the signal to the start of Summer…a day off work which creates a three day weekend filled with BBQ and picnics and trips to the beach?  Oh, sure – we give a cursory thought to Veterans, in between making the potato salad and firing up the grill.  We’re thankful – I’m not insinuating otherwise – but then, after a brief pause – we get on with the fun, right?

*sigh*  That’s not how it was supposed to be.

I’ll spare you all the details on the History of the Holiday, but suffice it to say that prior to the governmental decision to change the original date so as to create this “Three Day Weekend”, Memorial Day carried a much more somber tone.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service.

Since the Civil War. DIED. Not served – that’s Veterans Day. I’m a big fan of Veterans Day, because we can ACTUALLY thank a living, breathing person for their military service.

But today is for those who can’t enjoy a burger, or a trip to the beach.

Today is for those who are missed every minute of every day by families who try to struggle on with life without them.

Today is for those whose faded photos may sit atop fireplace mantels a a “familial decoration” to the younger generations of their family.

Today is for those whose graves are unmarked, whose families have long since forgotten their pain, their anguish, how their young lives were cut shortfor no other reason but that they chose to defend the freedoms of American citizens by carrying out the directives of those who govern our nation.

Now, I thought carefully about how I worded that last phrase.  For a moment, forget patriotism; forget flag waving; forget heroism; forget pride.  I think those sentiments are misplaced today.  They are NOBLE sentiments, to be sure.  It is necessary to our survival as a country that men and women with honor, bravery and courage volunteer to serve in our Armed Forces. Their presence and readiness and training and will to fight if required IS what keeps us safe.

But when they are gone; when they passed from this Earth as a result of a gunshot or an explosion or a bayonet wound or an airplane crash or drowning or a failed parachute opening in the case of my brother, Rock…then they are gone.  No amount of patriotism can bring them back, and the horror and pain of death overtakes all.  Sure, we can be proud of their willingness to serve, of the sacrifice of self they gave in putting on a uniform at all…but all the flagwaving in the world will not change the stark reality.

Lest you think that I am leaning toward the traitorous in my thinking, please be assured that the very opposite is the case.  I’ll spare you the Roll Call, but suffice it to say that nearly every male member (and a few female cousins) in both my family and my husband’s has served in the United States Armed Forces…some back to and including the Civil and Revolutionary Wars.  I spent 33 years of my life as either a Navy Brat or a Navy Wife.  I am patriotic, I am proud, and if my son Liam chooses to someday serve, I will support him with my whole heart in that decision.

But if he does, then I will treat every day like I do Memorial Day; as a day of prayer for our leaders and the leaders of the nations of the world.

I will pray that they reflect on the raw, painful meaning of this day.

I pray that they look into the faces of those in service, who are still alive, and review more carefully every decision made that will affect them.

That they would put aside arrogance, greed and pride and put the highest value on life.

That they would afford those who serve the best equipment, best training and best support available in return for their service.

That they would do all in their power to keep safe those who keep US safe.

*sigh* Okay, I’m down off my soap box. Yeah, I’m going to grill out today, and make potato salad. I’m also going to go the cemetery and put flowers and a flag on my brother’s grave…and wish we could have a burger and a beer together.  Or, maybe some corn on the cob…

Ri and Rock - Summer 1969


( “To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.”)


In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.


Written by Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

on 3 May 1915 (World War I) 

after he witnessed the death of his friend,

Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, 22 years old,

the day before.


That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies.


1915 – Written by US Professor Moina Michael,

inspired by the poem “In Flanders Field”


25 Responses to It’s not about service. It’s about death.
  1. Jenn
    May 31, 2010 | 10:31 am

    A beautiful tribute to your brother and a very moving speech.
    Praying for peace, xo

  2. MisterLucky13
    May 31, 2010 | 10:49 am

    Wow. Anything I could add would pale next to what you have written. I’m ashamed to say that to some degree, I had forgotten the difference between Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. I won’t do it again. The restraint you showed in what you have written must have been difficult. Will spend more time today thinking about Rock and those who sacrificed everything to give us the freedom than many of us (including myself sometimes) take for granted. Thanks.

  3. Ash
    May 31, 2010 | 10:52 am

    Good work, Ri.
    .-= Ash´s last blog ..Lake Show… =-.

  4. Dawn
    May 31, 2010 | 10:58 am

    You’re an amazing writer, Maria. You’re Mom would be so proud of you!
    ~Big hug~

    • Ri, the MSM
      May 31, 2010 | 12:45 pm

      Aw, thanks Dawn. I swear, I sometimes think I must channel her writing, because normally I just put up drivel until something just “hits me” like this and I straighten up. What is it Rock used to say…”Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while?” 😉 xoxo
      .-= Ri, the MSM´s last blog ..It’s not about service. It’s about death. =-.

  5. Dawn
    May 31, 2010 | 11:00 am

    I should say “your” Mom. :doh:

  6. Claudine
    May 31, 2010 | 12:45 pm

    Thanks for reminding me what today is REALLY all about. My husband runs a mental health facility for adults who can’t function independently in the world any longer and require full-time care. Bill says that about 60% of his residents are veterans. This day is so hard for them because they remember their buddies who died defending our country with them.

    Thinking of you and your family. And thanks to your posting, I will take the time to take MY Liam to our local cemetery today to put flowers on the war memorial.

    Much love, my friend!

  7. thepeachy1
    May 31, 2010 | 1:43 pm

    Ri.. I know this had to be a hard post for you. I am so glad you took a step and turned it personal. To share what it means with everyone. You are amazing. I am so sorry for your brother and all the thousands of others. There is not a world big enough, so Thank you is all I have. We are going to bring the lappy to the cemetery and play your playlist, while we put out flags and flowers.

    • Pamy
      November 26, 2014 | 9:53 am

      I met Milton and Ruby only a few times, and it was many years ago. I had not heard of his passing. I have been going trghuoh my own difficult times, but his warmth and smile and the few soft and encouraging words he spoke to me so many years ago stuck with me, and that’s how I ended up finding this website. Months ago I was clearing trghuoh some old pictures, getting ready to move on to the next chapter of my life. Listening to Jazz Music and I came across pictures of Donna and the Murrill children. It put a smile on my face, as I wiped away my tears. Those tears have returned to me now, finding out very much by accident of his passing. To Ruby and the rest of the family, please know that it is very much in part my memories of you and Milton that have helped me get trghuoh these times and keep a smile on my face and not let my experiences drag me into despair. My thoughts are with you all, you touched my life.I thank you for that, and for all the wonderful music.

  8. ThePeachy1
    May 31, 2010 | 1:44 pm

    A great post and music play list for today.
    It's not about service. It's about death. – http://b2l.me/x57m8

  9. Dipaola Momma (aka DiPM)
    May 31, 2010 | 2:27 pm

    Okay I’ve had to come back to this post several times today. It’s a funny thing how hard it is to write a comment through a torrent of tears. I try to teach my children that Memorial means to remember. It does not mean “break out the fireworks Cletus it’s time for the Indy!” nor does it mean “Did you get the cooler Jane it’s a long drive to the beach.” I know that you and I share a legacy of service, in our families and friends. I think it’s really a sad testament that is seems to mostly be those who have served, lost or continue to serve that “get” what this day is about. My mom called this morning to thank me for my service. I kind of miffed her I think when I told her that today wasn’t about me it was about Steve Perry, his wife and their four kids. Steve was the Chief at my first station. He died on board the USS Cole. Today is about remembering those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us. Now pass me a beer so I can cry in it! Rock will long be remembered. Thanks for the post Ri.. it really was moving.

  10. Mari
    May 31, 2010 | 3:55 pm

    Thank you, Ri. Beautifully stated.
    Hard to be a military family and not feel the full force of what this day means, and having lost a loved one or having a loved one currently in a forward-deployed location makes it that much more difficult.
    .-= Mari´s last blog ..A Rainbow in the Dark =-.

  11. Cathi Mims Yamaguchi
    May 31, 2010 | 4:40 pm

    RT @MusicSavvyMom It's not about service. It's about death. http://ow.ly/1S7bI Thanks for writing such a beautiful and moving essay.

  12. Sheri Berry
    May 31, 2010 | 6:09 pm

    RT @MusicSavvyMom: It's not about service. It's about death. http://ow.ly/1S7bI // thanks for this

  13. Lara DiPaola
    May 31, 2010 | 6:28 pm

    Lest we forget! Via @musicsavvymom It's not about service. It's about death. – http://b2l.me/x57m8

  14. Peachy One
    May 31, 2010 | 6:42 pm

    Remember thru music a playlist for today #memorialday
    It's not about service. It's about death. – http://b2l.me/x57m8

  15. Military Family of 8
    May 31, 2010 | 8:29 pm

    RT @dipaolamomma: Lest we forget! Via @musicsavvymom It's not about service. It's about death. – http://b2l.me/x57m8

  16. Monica Lakatos DDS
    May 31, 2010 | 9:35 pm

    Loved this post by @MusicSavvyMom – My Memorial Day post: It's not about service. It's about death. http://ow.ly/1Scvy U should read it.

  17. ThePeachy1
    May 31, 2010 | 10:07 pm

    RT @MusicSavvyMom: My Memorial Day post: It's not about service. It's about death. http://ow.ly/1Scvy

  18. oh_pook
    June 1, 2010 | 8:17 am

    that was beautiful, Ri!

    and the playlist kicked ass as well

  19. Lisa
    June 1, 2010 | 1:49 pm

    Wow. As someone on the opposite spectrum (meaning that I’ve known only a handful of men who have served, and they all came home) I will embarassingly admit that the full weight of this holiday has felt lost on me most of the time. Not now, though, after reading your post.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know intellectually that the day is to honor those who have fallen. It’s far too easy to detach, though, and not allow the full weight of that to really seep in. I may be running a day late but today it seeps in and as I look at my oldest–about to turn 14 and mentioning, in passing more than once over the past year, that he’d proudly serve his country, the immensity of even the possibility of his loss is crippling. I certainly can’t imagine the reality.

    Hugs to you–those are never late since they are always needed 🙂
    .-= Lisa´s last blog ..Expectations =-.

  20. This Belle Rocks
    June 1, 2010 | 8:53 pm

    I had no idea you’d lost a brother. I am so sorry. I can definitely see why all the “happier” fanfare might offend.
    .-= This Belle Rocks´s last blog ..Summer summer summer =-.

  21. Aspiring
    June 1, 2010 | 11:42 pm

    Awesome tribute Ri! great writing and information! Thank you for reminding me what this holiday was all about.

  22. Brutalism
    June 4, 2010 | 12:26 pm

    Ri — That was so beautifully written.

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