Memorial Day brings out the best and the worst

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This coming Monday, May 25, is Memorial Day. For about 150 years we, as a nation, have been honoring the memory of our fallen warriors, be they Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard. You will be able to go anywhere in America and find at least one Memorial Day observance, often preceding a parade.

Fort Rosecans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA (Tim Forkes)
Fort Rosecans National Cemetery, San Diego, CA
(Tim Forkes)

In San Diego, which is itself a Navy and Marine town; there are half a dozen different Memorial Day ceremonies, and a few parades. Everyone that cares to can honor the memory of those who have fought for our nation.

For over a decade now I’ve been attending the Memorial Day ceremony at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, a location that is idyllic in its serenity and beauty. It sits atop a high point on Point Loma, that outcropping of land that marks the northern side of San Diego Bay and features on its Pacific Ocean side, the community of Ocean Beach. Known for its Bohemian atmosphere and great surfing, O.B. is not what you would call a military town.

But above the community, high in the hills rests Fort Rosecrans. My brother’s ashes are interred at Rosecrans and that is a big reason I attend the ceremony every year: it gives me an opportunity to visit his niche and remember the good times.

It doesn’t offend me that many people look at Memorial Day Weekend as the unofficial beginning of Summer, or that having a Monday off is a good reason to fire up the barbeque; it’s a day off from work, enjoy it.

Not everyone goes to the Memorial Day services around the county, or around the country. I get it, but nonetheless the ceremony at Fort Rosecrans is pretty crowded. A lot of people do observe the day as it was intended, either by going to one of the ceremonies or by watching one of the parades. Kids love watching parades, where they can get goodies and if they get a little bit of meaning from the parade, all the better.

Here is what’s offensive about how we “observe” Memorial Day: the blatant use of the day for advertising things. A local furniture store, Jerome’s, had their Memorial Day commercial on and they took time in that commercial to remind viewers why we had a Memorial Day. Jerome’s is a San Diego-based company so they know about the military and veterans.

Oceanside Beach, CA (Tim Forkes)
Oceanside Beach, CA (Tim Forkes)

Seeing them do that got me to thinking about the other Memorial Day sales commercials that are currently running on television. If you watch TV you know there are a few of them. Every automobile dealer has them; all the other furniture stores, clothing, you name it, they all have Memorial Day commercials. They have commercials for all holidays as a matter of fact, including the 4th of July.

Generally I try not to be offended by this commercialization of Memorial Day. I served in the military because we have the freedom to observe all our various holidays in whichever fashion fits our desires. If you want to skip the Memorial Day observances and take your Weber down to Mission Bay and throw some ribeyes on the grill and celebrate with the family, that’s fine. Actually, ribeyes sound good right about now.

Maybe you’ll throw some chicken or burgers and hot dogs on the grill, doesn’t matter. Go do your thing. This is America and we have the freedom to do whatever we want for Memorial Day — or the 4th of July or whatever holiday it is you are celebrating — or not observing.

The one that chapped my hide though was a Honda commercial; you know you’ve seen it. It’s for their Memorial Day sale and wouldn’t you know it, for them the day is all about selling cars and making a “Mount Savemore,” in the fashion of Mount Rushmore, but with various models of their product line.

According to their ad, Honda’s prices makes their sale worthy of a monument of its own, just like our four presidents on Mount Rushmore, like the heroes commemorated on other monuments, because, “America has always celebrated its finest citizens and moments through the building of monuments. With the incredible deals possible at the Honda Memorial Day Sales Event, Honda thought it was worthy of a monument of its own.”

Honda CommercialI understand advertising, you want to tie in with a holiday, it’s about money and America is all about that dollar, but a sale is not nearly the equivalent to the monuments to our forefathers or the heroes and finest citizens from our past.

Please, in your advertising, don’t equate your product with the people we commemorate with our monuments. Many of them died so we could have the freedom to fill the airwaves, newspapers, magazines and the Internet with commercials and advertisements.

Their sacrifice gives us the freedom to choose which cars we buy, which products we get to use, who we get to vote for and the freedom not to vote — or observe holidays.

Have a Memorial Day sale for your products, use the holiday for generating income. This is America, celebrate the holiday, but please have a little more tact than that.

Honda makes fine vehicles; some of my friends own Hondas and I had one briefly. It was a great car and I might buy another one some day. But these past few weeks Honda of America was just a bit too crass.

I hope everyone has a great Memorial Day Weekend. The beaches here in Southern California will be filled and that’s always a great time. A bit crowded, with little parking available after 8 a.m. Lots of Hondas down at the beach too.

Parks all over America will be filled with people enjoying the first weekend of summer, although technically, summer is still about a month away — June 21 — but for most people the Memorial Day Weekend is the start of the season.

Now, who’s got the ribeyes?