Memorial Day is Not Veterans Day

Memorial Day is Not Veterans Day

Or

How to Dishonor the Honorable, Chicago Style

The Saturday before Memorial Day is when Chicago holds one of the oldest and arguably largest Memorial Day parades in the Nation. This is only right as Chicago also is one of the few if not the only city in America to have Service Academies for all five traditional branches of service. Space Force is officially a branch of the military alongside the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard but as of yet, there are no Service Academies established for this newest branch of the military.

This year in Chicago, the day started with a private breakfast for Gold Star families, something that has not been allowed since 2019 due to Covid restrictions. The wreath laying ceremony at Daly Plaza was well-attended, and the famed Memorial Day Parade down State Street was back, with thousands of participants and spectators.

For those of us for whom Memorial Day is personal, the return of Memorial Day events was gratefully welcomed. Sadly, though there were no restrictions for the first time since 2019, the meaning of the day was at best muddled. Most who participated in both the public and private moments know Memorial Day is when we honor those who did not come home, yet too many confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Sadly, Mayor Lori Lightfoot seems to fall in the category of the confused.

The Mayor told the crowd at Daley Plaza about the extraordinary service of two remarkable Chicagoans who as Black men served a country that at the time failed to recognize them as equals in our society. These are always important stories to tell, but highlighting those who served, came home, had families and continued serve to our communities on Memorial Day is disrespectful to them as well as to those for whom the day is intended. The family of one of the men who Lightfoot mentioned was present to receive the proclamation that the Mayor chose to designate May 28, 2022, “Rick Murray Day”.

To be clear, Rick Murray served honorably in uniform and continued to serve Chicago and his fellow veterans with his long-time participation in Memorial Day parades. There is no question this man’s life and legacy are worth honoring. While I’m sure his family was moved to have him so publicly remembered, I wonder if they too felt the irony of specially highlighting a man that lived a long, full life after his military service on the one day of the year when we honor those who never came home. I hate to think how a man who gave so much time and devotion to the meaning of Memorial Day would feel about having that meaning diminished, in his name.

The dishonor and disrespect did not stop there. This staggeringly considerable lapse in judgement was preceded by the Mayor’s odd remarks at the Gold Star breakfast. The Mayor commented how nice it was to once again see so many of the families she first met at the Gold Star breakfast in 2020. That breakfast in 2020 did not take place, nor did the parade, so there were many confused looks among the Gold Stars at the incongruity in the Mayor’s memory.

In a final act of dishonor, the Mayor announced this year’s recipient of the General Logan award was Jean Harris, repeatedly and incorrectly referring to her as the mother of Sgt. Joshua Harris. Jean Harris has recently become one of the Survivor Outreach Services coordinators for Illinois, for which she deserves commendation, but she is Sgt. Harris’ stepmother. I can’t imagine the shock, dismay and heartbreak of Mille Harris hearing the Mayor tell the world that she is not the mother of the child she bore.

I am thankful and grateful that there are other events this Memorial Day weekend where the true meaning of the day will not be diminished, dishonored, or subverted. When listening to a speech by politicians on Memorial Day, their true feelings about, and the genuineness of, their support for our military, veterans, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice are evidenced by how many others they inappropriately try to include in their thanks. It is not unusual for doctors, nurses, teachers, and sundry others to receive mention on this day that is not about them. But, if specific individuals are mentioned, it will be someone who did not come home to enjoy the life they fought and died to defend.

Mayor Lightfoot mentioned three individuals in her speech, two veterans and a stepmother. In doing so, she dishonored the honorable service and memory of the two veterans on the day that is about those who did not come home. Worse, she insulted and dishonored the mother of a fallen hero by giving that title to another. Overall, it was a short speech she gave. It should have been shorter.

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Denise Williams

Views and opinions from the Gold Star, Military and Veteran perspective are generally different from those of the civilian world. Much of what I write is “their” stories, as told to me as the Gold Star Mother of PFC Andrew Meari, KIA 11/1/10 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. This is how I continue to honor the Oath my son took.
I don’t like labels or boxes as the former is insufficient to describe a person and the latter limits a person but if you insist, call me a Progressive Republican. I believe in this country, our Constitution and above all, in the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I believe our government is supposed to serve the people, not tell them how to live.
To me, this is just common sense but since it seems to be a minority opinion, it has become “Uncommon Sense”.

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