Hot dogs and burgers on the grill, potato salad, and baked beans, cold drinks chilling in the cooler: just a few signs of a family barbecue in the works. Memorial Day is celebrated by many across America, with our family and friends getting together, eating our favorite picnic foods, throwing back a cold one and listening to some tunes and having a good ‘ol time.
Without fail across social media, you’ll see images, like this one below, reminding us that Memorial Day is NOT National Barbecue Day. Well, I agree but, I also disagree.
My Grandfather served our country
I have family members on both sides of my family who have served our country. It is a proud heritage and one that I wouldn’t dream of dishonoring. My Grandpa, Kenneth Thomas, fought in WWII and was an incredibly brave soldier who saved many lives. He saw a lot of disturbing things in the war and as a result, he suffered tremendously for many years from the effects of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and it carried well into his married life. Unfortunately, back then nobody really understood PTSD or knew what to do about it. Soldiers were expected to just ‘man up’ and forget the horrific images etched in their minds and just move on with their lives.
Who knows how much different it could’ve been if he had the help and support available that we do now. But that wasn’t the case and sadly when my mother was at the tender age of 12, his PTSD won the battle and he took his own life. The tragic ending of his life devastated my mom and her entire family and haunts them still today. Decades later now that my mother is a grandmother and I’m now a mom myself, we made a trip to the small town she grew up in Idaho. Her cousin now lives in the house she grew up in. She shared with me the frightening experiences of growing up with a father with mental illness, and how she would lock herself in the bathroom. She longed to have her Daddy hold her and comfort her like he used to on his ‘good days’. But there was a monster inside of him that was tearing away at his mind, like a dark cloud brewing a storm that was just growing bigger every day.
I remember hearing stories of what kind of man he was before the war and I couldn’t help but wonder what could have been had he not been through the travesties he experienced. Experiences that shook him to the core and changed his life and his families life forever. One of the ways that I became closer to my grandfather and learned more about him was by reading his poetry. He was a very talented poet and I believe it was a form of therapy for him after the war. It was because of his writing that I was also inspired to write poetry at a young age and become a blogger now. All though I never met him, I felt closer to him somehow through his poetry. So much so that I named my first born son Thomas as a way to honor his memory.
Why I’m okay with a Memorial Day BBQ
So why would I find it okay to celebrate Memorial Day weekend with BBQ’s you may ask? Because my family, those who served and those who lost their lives would want us to enjoy the freedom they fought so hard to preserve. They want us to go outside and spend time as a family to enjoy our friendships we’ve made, to continue to preserve peace throughout our country and enjoy the rights we have that so many other countries do not. They want us to attend any church we choose, to vote for any candidate we see fit, to speak our minds when a wrong needs to be made right, to walk the streets without scorn, to wear what we want to wear and be who we want to be and feel the freedom that has been given us.
Freedom isn’t free
That freedom that we are all enjoying every day, no it doesn’t come free. It most certainly came with a price; a very dear one. We pay for it still and don’t even realize it. Our military is always on guard, watching, ever watching. That’s what they do best and that’s why I’ll be serving up my kids their hot dogs and potato salad on a paper plate every Memorial Day and not feel the least bit guilty.
Come Monday we will still be walking solemnly through a local cemetery, placing flags on the graves of soldiers, just like my mom and grandma used to take us to the cemetery every Memorial Day to visit our loved ones and remember our veterans. I’ll tell them about their Grandpa and their Uncle and why my son was named after his Great Grandpa. The story he’s heard a hundred times but he loves to hear it still. I only pray that by the time he’s a Grandpa that he can tell the same story to his grandchildren under the same freedom we enjoy today.
Now if you don’t mind I’ve got some burgers on the grill that need tending too. Enjoy your weekend everyone! It’s what my Grandpa would have wanted.
Struggling with depression and/or anxiety and not sure where to turn? There are many places you can turn to for help:
Are you contemplating suicide and don’t know where to turn? Please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
A longer version of this post originally appeared on Why Not Mom. It has been reprinted with permission.
Tonia L. Clark is an introvert and a social media butterfly. She’s a geeky, girlie tomboy, who craves chocolate and world peace. The mother of one girl and two boys and married to a long haul truck driver. She’s a little bit country and a lot of rock and roll. Tonia’s fantasy involves a posh hotel room with a Jacuzzi all to herself in complete solitude for 48 hours straight…peace and tranquility. Tonia is the founder and creator of Why Not Mom which is soon to be the largest online shopping directory of work at home mom businesses! You can find on Facebook and on Twitter.