By SUZANNE DOWNING
America’s own vice president missed the point of Memorial Day weekend by a mile when she tweeted on Saturday, “Enjoy the long weekend” as her social media acknowledgement of the three-day federal holiday, set aside to honor those who died serving our country. It caused many patriots to groan.
President Joe Biden’s message was in a similar vein: “Stay cool this weekend, folks,” as his staff posted a photo of him enjoying an ice cream cone while talking to what appeared to be an underaged girl.
Biden and Harris made the mistake that slips out when we forget, as we sometimes do, that the correct greeting is not “Happy Memorial Day” but “We will never forget those who made the ultimate sacrifice.” For the commander in chief and his surrogate, it appears to be a festive event, like the Fourth of July.
We presume the president really does know better. Of Harris, we’re not so sure.
Decoration Day, a time to lay flowers on the graves of the Civil War war dead, started back in 1868 and became Memorial Day over time, and was set for May 30 every year. In 1971, with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, it was moved to the last Monday in May, thus providing a three-day weekend for federal workers.
With that three-day weekend came a more holiday atmosphere, the opportunity for mini-vacations, family reunions, beaches, and barbecues. Because the world of trade looks for any opportunity, Memorial Day sales became a popular enticement. As people left for the weekend, there were fewer around to lay the wreaths or tend the graves.
The Uniform Monday Holiday Act made some holidays, such as Labor Day and Presidents Day, a bit more festive. But through time, Memorial Day became a little cheapened around the edges as just another three-day weekend. It was not that way when it was a date certain. In the 1960s, it was a day of remembrance.
There are always patriots and families of the fallen who hold fast to the traditions of Decoration Day, the playing of Taps, and the laying of wreaths. For Gold Star families, it’s a day to reflect and remember, and wonder what might have been without the sacrifice they and their warriors made for our country. What children might have been born, what memories might have been created, and what evils would have occurred in the world without their warriors’ who stood to fight the battle.
For veterans, the day is also sacred, a time when memories flood their minds as they remember the day they stood to take their enlisting oath, and what it meant to them and their comrades: “I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the president of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed.”
That oath of office, a promise to “obey the orders of the president,” is why it’s so important that the president and vice president choose their words wisely. Social media is an unforgiving landscape, and when it comes to the sacrifice of our warriors, our leaders must tread with care. In this case, both the president and vice president missed the mark with their unforced errors. Presumably by Monday their public relations teams will have steered them back on course.