SAN DIEGO — Memorial Day weekend is here, and people have already made their plans. But the meaning of the holiday can oftentimes be overlooked.
It’s marked as a time to honor and remember fallen service members. It’s also linked to barbeques, retail discounts, plus extra time off work.
“Honoring the fallen, however, you do, is what’s important,” Shawn VanDiver, a Navy veteran, told FOX 5 on Friday. “I’ve lost a lot of folks, and you think about them throughout the year but especially on this day.”
VanDiver served 12 years, from 2001 to 2013. He was deployed to South America, the Middle East and worked as a Navy instructor in San Diego. He now runs a nonprofit, Afghan Evac, which helps Afghanistan refugees.
VanDiver said he has seen the focus of Memorial Day change.
“I think there is a long time where we were at peace, and the war got really far away from folks, from their daily psyche,” VanDiver said.
Kazou Nimori, a Vietnam War veteran, said the understandings have shifted because the teaching around the federal military holiday is lacking.
“I think things are changing, because maybe the youth have not served their country, there is not an appreciation for the people or the veterans that have,” Nimori told FOX 5. “I think it’s up to each family, and I think some of the results are because some of the family values have changed, and I think we go back to some of the basics.”
VanDiver said he feels that people should celebrate the start of summer on Memorial Day. However, also take time to think about service members who lost their lives while defending the nation. He said these are the fallen heroes who made the holiday possible.
“However you choose to celebrate, however you choose to honor our fallen is OK,” VanDiver said. “The important thing is you think about it and you remember them and you pay honor to them somehow. For some, it’s pouring out a beer at their barbeque, whatever it looks like to you. Especially if you served or lost somebody, that’s up to you. How you grieve, how you mourn, how you honor someone’s life is really up to you.”
The USS Midway Museum has a commemoration ceremony on Memorial Day. A commemorative wreath-laying ceremony to honor all who have fallen service in the U.S. military will be held at 9 a.m. Monday. This year’s ceremony will emphasize the service and sacrifices of women in the military. The flight-deck commemoration will include remarks from San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, Girl Scout Mari Beck, and U.S. Navy Capt. Tamara Graham, a female naval aviation trailblazer. The ceremony, which will end with a missing-man aircraft flyover, is free and open to the public.