Mark Shea, who, in his own words says he is “a popular Catholic writer and speaker”, has shown his apparent ignorance of the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day today and, in the process, has politicized what is supposed to be a solemn occasion. In referring to a Marine veteran winning a photography contest, Shea pens these words:
These are the human beings our Ruling Class shovel around like concrete and our chickenhawk media clap on the back and send into harm’s way for the sake of ratings.
This Memorial Day, remember them. And if we really want to honor them, bring them home.
Shea shows his apparent ignorance of what Memorial Day actually means and then appears to double down on it by politicizing it. For some of the issues others have had with Shea before, you might want to read this petition. One of the points alleged against him there is that he has been guilty of “bashing our troops” in the past.
The issue of people who should know better mistaking Memorial Day for Veterans Day is a sensitive one for many living veterans, including me. However, to take it a step further and push an agenda, whatever it may be, in the context of Memorial Day crosses the line from ignorance to ill intent. I wrote this post to discuss both of those mistakes that people make, even though one is more egregious than the other.
There are separate holidays for Armed Forces Day, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day. They all serve their own purpose from honoring those currently serving to honoring those who have served before to honoring those who have given their lives in service to the nation. There have been plenty of times in the past that military actions were questionable or not popular. That never justifies co-opting the holidays listed above whether you’re attacking politicians and the media or spitting on returning soldiers. You’re still co-opting Memorial Day for your own base purposes and figuratively trampling on the graves of the fallen.
My friend Marcus Penn expressed sentiments totally in line with mine earlier today about people who treat Memorial Day like it’s Veterans Day much more eloquently and concisely when he said:
I feel the need to throw this out because I’m already seeing it on Facebook. This weekend isn’t about the living. It isn’t about the veterans and active duty still with us. It’s for those that died in the service of this county. Our Honored Dead. I’ll always smile and take the thanks for my service to heart, but not this weekend. Don’t thank me this weekend, remember the dead.
John Donovan, a veteran and a friend, discusses the same subject:
Going into this weekend can cause a bit of cognitive dissonance for many of my people.
For my tribe, it is a day of remembrance for the fallen and departed, like the Auld Soldier.
For most people, it’s baseball, barbecue, brats, beer, and the beginning of summer. A not insignificant number of my military friends and family can get sad and yes, angry, at the celebratory aspect of things. I do not. The fallen fell, in no small part, so that the rest of us could enjoy these holidays, and would wish us to do so – and eat brats, drink beer, and swim. So, have a good time, be safe, but do take a moment to remember those who are the flowers in the gardens of stone. But do me a favor, six months from now – don’t turn *my* day, Veteran’s Day, into a second Memorial Day. Just as you don’t need to spend this weekend thanking me for my service. This is Dad’s day, now. November, that’s my day. And Beth’s.
Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, because it was the day that the graves the fallen were decorated with flowers. People who are enjoying their cookouts, the beach, and other recreational activities need to remember that. Remember that when you’re about to wish somebody a “Happy” Memorial Day as well. I would also hope that Mark Shea takes a moment while he’s with his family at the “hidden island redoubt” to remember those men and women who died in his name and the name of every other American citizen so they all have the freedom to write whatever they want or enjoy a cookout or the beach with family and friends. I would hope everyone else focusing on the parties and the beach aspect of the holiday would also pause and reflect on what Memorial Day is truly about.
Quinton is a native South Carolinian who has lived in Baltimore since 2006. He is a recent convert to the Catholic Church and is active in the Knights of Columbus. He has been involved in the pro-life movement nationally and locally since 2010.
Quinton is a veteran who served as an intelligence analyst in the Army National Guard. He is also an Eagle Scout.