Memorial Day began as an act of respect, people decorating the graves of fallen soldiers during the Civil War era. It now serves the masses as a three-day weekend to hit the lake, grill and enjoy a favorite pasttime.
The word "remember" is the key to the reverence in commemorating our fallen.
Remember is defined by Merriam-Webster as "having or keeping an image or idea in your mind of something or someone from the past; to cause something to come back into your mind."
Of my family and personal friends who served protecting our nation in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and Shield, all have returned home. Some scarred visibly, some mentally, with the wounds of war.
Yet, countless families will have an empty place setting at the picnic table today once filled by a mom or dad who died in military service -- for me and for you.
Many will look through photographs to "remember" and visit, only in their minds, a time that included their friend or family member. Those snapshots of earlier days, along with any other memorabilia, are the lasting remnants held in love and memory of the fallen.
Still, many today don't have any sense of appreciation for the events that define Memorial Day.
Despite the fact we studied history in school, the value of those who fought and died for our liberty and our freedoms was an elusive thought. The lessons from Mr. Jarrod's civics class at Hixson Junior High, and the teaching of Coach Underwood at Hixson High, served as vehicles to appreciate the notion that it was necessary, at times, to engage and defend by force the God-given rights that America cherishes.
But, it was my family's respect for our nation and our military that framed my references of personal sacrifice of our servicemen and women, along with their families.
A few vivid memories: Seeing ball caps get knocked off the heads of cousins while parents exhorted them to stand still during the national anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance; watching tears dampen faces at parades as soldiers marched past; listening as mail was read with excitement and reverence from uncles in Vietnam; buying poppy flowers sold by the American Legion at the dime store.
I was taught respect. It was expected of me. I remember.
Today, the entire day will pass with no mention of the fallen who died protecting the right to access unlimited information on the world wide web; who protect our speech, for the most part, protected from fear of retribution by our government; who protect the property rights to own a home, a boat, a car and freely travel within and outside our borders. The list is long.
While our attentions should be turned to those who died protecting our freedom, most will focus on their favorite subject -- themselves. The extent of civic engagement these days for some is to type a 140-character statement along with a "trending" hashtag -- that's valor in 2014.
The "me" crowd that talks through the national anthem with their caps on, who have no clue nor desire to know why the American Legion still sells poppy flowers on Memorial Day weekend, and who are evermore content to criticize and insult our men and women of the military, along with their families, will celebrate themselves today.
They were taught that.
Robin Smith served as chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party, 2007 to 2009. She is a partner at the SmithWaterhouse Strategies business development and strategic planning firm and serves on Tennessee's Economic Council on Women.