As holiday weekends go, Memorial Day is understandably a popular one. As the first three-day weekend with the warm weather of summer, a deep theme of national unity, and – especially important for our Jersey shore – the landmark opening of beaches and pools across our coast, it’s little surprise why “Memorial Day” has come to be synonymous with backyard barbecues, family reunions, and big waves on the beach.
This year, this holiday has taken on a bittersweet edge. Families across our state and country are separated, kept apart by a deadly virus. Summer businesses, from ice-cream parlors to boardwalk funnel cake stands to amusement parks, are shuttered and struggling to survive. And as our state gradually moves toward re-opening and recovery, many New Jerseyans, understandably, have come to see Memorial Day as a declaration of independence from this pandemic – a symbol of pride that a simple virus cannot keep the American people from sharing in the company of the people we love or enjoying the experiences we treasure.
I don’t begrudge anyone who is enjoying the re-opening of our beaches or an opportunity to celebrate, instead of mourn. As a lifelong resident of Monmouth County – there’s no doubting that this weekend has a special place in my heart. But at its core, Memorial Day is not a celebration of leisure, or even freedom. We celebrate our nation’s freedom on Independence Day, and the men and women who fight for it on Veterans Day.
Memorial Day is the day we remember the price of that freedom. It is a solemn ceremony in honor of the lives we have lost, and a sign of our gratitude and grief in memory of those fallen. Memorial Day is not a day of excess – it is a day of sacrifice, and in service toward respect, reverence, and patriotism, must be observed as such. Thank you to our veterans and God Bless you and your families.
Senator Vin Gopal represents the 11th Legislative District in Monmouth County and serves as Senate Majority Conference Leader and as Chairman of the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.