The Baltimore Orioles will join teams across the league today in celebrating Memorial Day. Everyone will wear the special military-centric uniforms, and we’ll see various displays of patriotism in ballparks across the league. Whereas the NFL kind of gets Thanksgiving as “it’s holiday,” Memorial Day and the Fourth of July most definitely belong to MLB.
The O’s of course will play a matinee game today, as will many other teams across the league. And that’s part of the deal on holidays such as Memorial Day. It plays well with the motif of cook outs, the beach, hot dogs, etc. But we shouldn’t ever forget why we celebrate the holiday overall.
We always associate Memorial Day as being the beginning of summer. And in fact, Memorial Day and Labor Day do act as great bookends to the summer season. More specifically, we associate the holiday with the military – and justifiably so. However often times I feel that we forget why it’s associated with the military.
Memorial Day isn’t meant as a military appreciation day – per se. It is, but then again it isn’t. (There’s some hyperbole for those of you who complain that I speak in riddles!) Memorial Day is meant to honor those members of our American armed forces who died in combat. Now keep in mind, it’s ALWAYS worth mentioning and thanking our veterans. But they’re the first ones to say that their day is Veterans Day – in November. Today is about those who didn’t make it back.
And my hope is that as fans start filing into Oriole Park at Camden Yards this afternoon, they’ll remember that. We all get to sit here and watch and talk about baseball in relative freedom. And we can only do that BECAUSE of the brave men and women who gave their lives in defense of our country over the years.
I’ll leave you with two quick stories, both of which stick with me. My late grandmother emigrated to the United States from Italy when she was one year old. The family settled in a Western PA mining town, and her brother, Pfc David Berardi, served the United States in World War II. He was awarded three Purple Hearts, and eventually died in service of the United States.
My grandmother didn’t talk often about her brother, but on the occasion that she did it was obvious that his death deeply affected her. Her family thus became a Gold Star Family, and again while she didn’t speak of him often I know that she never forgot her brother. When she passed in 1999 I remember thinking of how joyful their reunion in heaven must be.
Secondly, about 15 years ago I was flying back from visiting family in Italy myself, and it was a very clear summer day. The pilot came on the PA and announced that if passengers looked out the windows on the right side of the plane they could see Omaha Beach – where the Allied invasion of Normandy occurred in WWII. I’ll never forget the image of three or four elderly gentlemen jumping out of their seats, standing at attention, and saluting out the window.
These are the things we should consider today as we make our way into ballparks, to beaches, or to enjoy a day off nationwide. The Orioles will take on the Washington Nationals this afternoon – but the fact is that we’re all on the same team. And we remain on the same team because of the so many fallen hero’s in so many wars over the course of our history. And we should never forget that.