The real meaning of the day, though, is to honor Americans who fought and died in wars and police actions.
On Friday I went to see the exhibit Eyes Wide Open: An Exhibition on the Human Cost of the Iraq War by the American Friends Service Committee. It's a visual display of the people that have been lost to the war. The exhibit I saw was focused on New York State, and included one pair of empty combat boots for each New York State citizen who has died in the Iraq war so far. 178 pairs of empty boots doesn't sound like a lot, but it's chilling to see them all in a row, as if the soldiers are in formation, but those people have just vanished.
Since the Iraq War began, 4079 American military personnel have been killed there. That's more than died in the World trade Center and Pentagon attacks on September 11, 2001. More than 30,000 American military have been wounded in Iraq. The reports about how many Iraqi civilians have been killed vary widely, from 80,000 to 650,000.
Memorial Day is a day to remember. It shouldn't be a day for kids to wonder if their dads (or moms) are coming home. For women to wonder if they'll be evicted next month because the National Guard stipend doesn't pay the rent while their husbands are off facing death in the desert. For Iraq War veterans to be refused treatment for PTSD because the VA says it's all in their heads.
Support our troops. Demand pay and benefits equal to the sacrifice they're making. And bring them home NOW.