Memorial Day is a United States Federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (in 2008 on May 26). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who perished while in military service to their country. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War, it was expanded after World War I to include casualties of any war or military action.
For me at least, Memorial Day is about much more than just cookouts: Without the courage of young American men who came to Europe to fight the Nazis, I would have been born in a German-speaking France. Or perhaps not at all.
Though I was born in 1971, I grew up in the shadow of WWII: My grandfather was a Cavalry Officer in both WWI and WWII. A hefty chunk of my family on my Mother’s side was killed by the Nazis. I grew up in France, surrounded by memorials, military cemeteries and the pockmarked landscapes of Normandie, Ypres and the Ardennes. Think old bunkers, craters and fields of white crosses like the photo below. My mother, who was 11 when Allied troops finally landed and remembers the war all too well, still – to this day – keeps an emergency supply of sugar and butter… just in case, I don’t know, the Germans decide to give it another go.
I grew up with the paratroopers’ prayer framed over my bed, and the annual ritual of having my father let me hold my grandfather’s medals. (The Legion d’Honeur and the Croix de Guerre.) I grew up with countless stories of sacrifice and courage and bravery. I grew up with a profound love for all things American, simply because long ago, decades before I was born, thousands of them crossed the Atlantic to come save us… and died on our beaches and in our fields.
What does this have to do with branding? Very little… but it’s Memorial Day and I never let it go by without thinking about the daily sacrifices made by men and women in uniform. To those who can’t be with their loved ones today, and to the families of the fallen, I say thank you.
And Thank You to all who serve and have served in the United States Armed Forces – not just on this day, but every day.