I’ve realized the complex feelings I have around the holiday, Delaney Tarr writes on this Memorial Day. 

When I was a child I knew Memorial Day as a day of fun. The seemingly random day off from school meant barbecues, beach days, and plenty of sunbathing. My family spent each year decked out in our summer best to party with friends. 

Then I grew up and I learned that not everybody sees the day the same. I felt guilty, knowing that so many people were mourning while I slurped on popsicles. A day so often assumed to be one of fun and the sun actually holds a lot of pain. 

Since then, I’ve realized the complex feelings I have around the holiday. I’ve never been the most patriotic, especially knowing the many wrongs America has committed. But I also understand the hurt of loss and see the pain of those left behind by fallen soldiers.

I don’t come from a military family. I know the day will never hold the same significance for me as it does for others. Now I spend my Memorial days a touch more solemn. I still celebrate the oncoming summer in my favorite bathing suit, but my memory lies with those spending their day in the cemetery. 

I hope, too, that we can expand who we memorialize. The holiday traditionally honors the military personnel who died in service, but we must extend our love and memory to every casualty. To the civilians who have suffered, to the people that have been left behind. 

Memorial Day captures both joy and pain in one single holiday. Side by side we witness those mourning the past and those celebrating the future season. In a way, that makes it the most American holiday of all.