By Pamela Hart Vines

For most people, modern-day Memorial Day had morphed into nothing more than a mega bedding sale or a backyard barbeque ribs and beer fest. The true meaning of the national holiday, to honor men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Military, was on its way toward becoming a tiny footnote among our shopping, grilling and domino-slapping celebrations. 

Things are different this year. Sheltered in our homes, feelings of uncertainty and loss linger as we struggle to flatten the coronavirus curve. As a result, Memorial Day suddenly feels like a time we’ll need to gather in deep reflection. With the 90,432 people in the U.S. suddenly torn away from us, we’re all in a deep state of mourning.

The rise of the coronavirus has wreaked havoc on our nation, our communities and has changed our perspectives about, well, everything. Material stuff means little. As a whole, our laser-focus is on life, health and providing for our families. 

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Pamela Hart Vines reflected on the importance of Memorial Day for all people during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy Photo)

Since we’re all in this together, I recommend we expand the meaning of the holiday to include not just military members, but all of our loved ones who’ve been taken from us by the stray bullets of the virus. Coronavirus is the enemy and we’re all at war fighting it. 

The origin for the holiday surrounds loss. At the end of the Civil War, the nation had lost more lives than in any conflict in U.S. history. So many that the country established its first national cemeteries. We’re currently at a place with more that double the people we lost in that war are currently battling the virus. 

As a retired Army officer, I count myself fortunate to never have lost a soldier under my command. And throughout my 23 years of service, I have only lost three comrades who died while serving on active duty in either Iraq or on 9-11 (September 11). 

Death is final and it affects us all. As poet John Donne said, “Any [person’s] death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” 

There is no comparison of lives lost. But whereas Memorial Day was originated to honor servicemembers only, I propose we expand the language of the holiday to recognize all U.S. citizens who have perished, whether in conflict or as a non-combatant of the COVID-19 War. 

Whereas the virus is affecting us all. Let’s honor the men, women and children—our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters, in uniform and in civilian clothes—in as one. Let’s honor all of our departed throughout or country whom we mourn and miss with all our hearts.

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