Mattresses. Patio furniture. Outdoor grills.

If it is sold, it is likely sold at a discount on Memorial Day weekend, perhaps hawked by a stern Uncle Sam or a preening price tag.

Nearly a century and a half since the first observance of what would become Memorial Day, the meaning of the holiday intended to honor those we lost in the defense of our country, has itself been lost, blurred by the happy traditions of the start of summer, a passing confusion with Veterans Day and the screamingly stentorian sales season built around it. 

Memorial Day is our country’s most hallowed and somber holiday. It should be a day or reflection for those lost, a solemn affirmation of the obligation between our country and those who defend us, and a reminder of the inexorable link of freedom and sacrifice.

Yet its intended purpose is often more background story than primary focus.

At NJVC, we have a privileged perspective on the meaning of this day. We support the critical missions of our nation’s defense, so each and every day we see the commitment of our uniformed personnel and the system that supports them. We see the steady resolve and commitment of our service members carried on in each, just as it was by those who wore the uniform before them. We are honored to work alongside hundreds of veterans on our staff, who have stories of their own of those we have lost but will never forget.

Every Memorial Day, our offices lower their flags to half-staff until noon as a salute to the fallen, then return it to full height, as is tradition, a symbol of remembrance and of our country's unbroken spirit.

Like the flag lowering and raising, perhaps it is fitting that the traditions which represent the freedom we enjoy, the parades and afternoon baseball and time spent on family vacations, have become so entwined with this holiday. It is the heavy price paid by so few, symbolized by the lowered flag, that allows so many to enjoy happiness at home, represented in the afternoon return to normalcy. 

So as Memorial Day approaches, please take time from the traditions that our service members’ sacrifice have helped enable, to reflect on their commitment and remember their stories. Those that we honor asked for no gratitude, but deserve it more than any other others. Spend time in consideration of their selfless acts before enjoying the carefree freedom they so dearly helped provide.

Remember that our nation’s most solemn holiday isn’t about the low price of a grill, but the high cost paid by so few, so that so many may enjoy peace and prosperity on the homefront.