By Buddy Blouin

Every year, millions of Americans celebrate the unofficial start of summer around BBQs, pools, and similar events, wishing each other a "Happy Memorial Day." However, this might not be the best approach. While some may think that the questions being posed around this seemingly innocent phrase may be the latest example of sensitivity among society, it’s actually based upon respect for the families of our nation’s heroes. Should you say “Happy Memorial Day?” Let’s explore when it works and when it doesn’t.

Do You Say Happy Memorial Day?

More and more people inside and outside of the military community are rethinking the use of “Happy Memorial Day” for a very simple reason—for those most impacted by the holiday, it’s far from a celebration.

The truth is, our nation is going to celebrate a “happy” Memorial Day weekend with loved ones and those who made it possible through the ultimate sacrifice are not.

In many cases, telling someone "Happy Memorial Day" is unlikely to be a faux pas, but you’ll want to be sure that there isn’t pain connected to whomever you are talking to due to a loved one dying while serving our country.

Of course, when "Happy Memorial Day" images and clipart are shared among friends and coworkers, the idea is to spread positivity.

Overwhelmingly, people say this with good intentions and are more likely focused on having a cold beverage of their choice with friends and family instead of dealing with a meeting that could have been an email.

Still, there are more than 2.8 million troops and civilians currently working within our military. There are also more than 18 million American Veterans found throughout the world.

This alone provides the context of just how many families are connected to the military and have likely worked with, served with, or loved someone who gave their all so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we do.

Remembering the Reason

You can say “Happy Memorial Day” and likely not have any negative connotations connected to it but it’s still a tremendous show of empathy and respect to refrain from this wording.

Men and women go to hell and back and then back into hell again so that the land of the free stays that way.

Their sacrifices and loss are impactful for many reasons. On a personal level, it’s the families of these individuals who also miss out on seeing their loved ones grow old.

The average age of troops serving on active duty is 28.5 years old. A far cry from the average American life expectancy which typically reaches 76 to 79 years of age.

Death is a common consequence of war, and it's an unfortunate sacrifice troops bravely face on our behalf for the common good.

Memorial Day weekend is a time to reflect on these sacrifices, to be thankful that people are willing to put their lives on the line, and it is a time to give back to the military community.

What to Say Instead of Happy Memorial Day

Is it ok to say "Happy Memorial Day?" It’s unlikely to be the end of the world if you do; however, keep in mind there are alternatives available and better ways to communicate positivity during the holiday.

The Code of Support Foundation (COSF) is a nonprofit organization helping the military community connect with resources for a range of assistance needs.

Here are some great suggestions you can use every May instead of focusing on the word “happy”:

  • Tell people to enjoy their weekend but to take time out to remember the reason behind it.
  • Focus again on the meaning. Have a meaningful weekend instead of a happy one.

On top of not wishing a “Happy Memorial Day,” it’s a great idea to reach out and support loved ones and neighbors who are affected by the weekend. Small gestures can go a long way in lifting their spirits.

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