A lot of people see today as a day for nonstop somber reflection.
But I think back to my grandfather, who served in World War II, who spent most Memorial Day weekends barbecuing and having a good time.
Pop would talk about the war from time to time (he was a Navy Seabee who walked through Nagasaki after the bomb dropped there and never saw combat). He retained his rifles and other military paraphernalia (including a big box of dynamite we found stored away after he died). He had a huge stash of photographs — and also some undeveloped rolls of film from the war that he took to Walmart in the mid-1990s to see what they could do with them. (They came out great and they didn't charge him for them.) We had a long conversation about his service when I was in high school. That era of his life was a big part of who he was, and we was never shy about saying so.
One thing he never, ever did was lord his service over anyone. I never heard him complain about people not deferring enough, or about observing holidays in a certain manner. He never implied that enlisted people were better than civilians. He avidly supported our family members in the military, but never came off as hawkish. His attitude in general seemed to be that we fight, when we need to, so that we can continue to live the way we do. So we should live it up.
I saw a cartoon a few years ago that showed a man and his WWII-vet father talking as a young child played. The man said something like, "That kid has no concept of what you went through." And the vet replied, "That's the idea." That was Pop. Ever so humble.
Though he died several decades after the war, I remember him today. And everyone else.
And now I go off to enjoy what they've defended for us, just like Pop would want.