American Cemetery, Normandy.  (Photo by the author.)

My inbox is oddly flooded this morning.  Not with the usual client inquiries (it’s a holiday, after all), but with the normal spate of promotional emails and law firm newsletters I’ve come to expect on most statutory days off.  Sure, we’ve commercialized the heck out of every holiday, but that’s happened for centuries.  For retailers and restaurants to market their wares and fares on such days becomes much less bothersome as I get older.  What is more bothersome every year is the habit of wishing the recipient a “happy” Memorial Day in the subject header.

A “happy” Memorial Day is impossible, because no joy can be taken in the sacrifices of more than a million men and women killed in America’s many battles over our roughly 250 years.  Yes, we can rejoice at the fruits of those sacrifices, most notably the freedoms we simply take for granted.  Yes, we can smile at the laughter of the children and grandchildren of a soldier killed in action.  We can appreciate the fact that, at least for the time being, we don’t face an existential threat from a foreign army.

But Memorial Day is not a happy holiday– nor is it sad.  It is cause for solemn remembrance of lives given in the cause of liberty.