Memorial Day 2018.
For most of America, this will be an extra day off to spend with family and friends in the early summer weather.
But before the picnics and barbecues, let's take a second to remember why we observe this day across the country.
Often confused with Veterans Day (meant to honor living military veterans), Memorial Day is an annual observance on the last Monday of May to honor our fallen soldiers who served so we can enjoy the freedoms we have, like, a picnic on a beautiful day or raising our voices in peaceful protest.
According to Professor David Blight of Yale University, the first Memorial Day took place on May 1, 1865 in Charleston, SC, after a group of African-Americans, mostly former slaves, gave 257 Union soldiers a proper burial.
The black community in Charleston then consecrated the new cemetery with “an unforgettable parade of 10,000 people,” led by 3,000 black school children.
Initially called “Decoration Day,” the annual observance continued in that name until an official name change in 1967.
As is tradition, in Arlington National Cemetery a wreath will be laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier containing the unidentified remains of a World War I, II, Korea, and Vietnam soldier. It is a sacred memorial to all the “unknown” soldiers who lost their lives.
Yet there are thousands more who have made the ultimate sacrifice but whose true identities will never be known either – the LGBT soldiers who served and died in silence.
Even before the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” LGBT soldiers proudly served the country they loved as they hid an integral part of who they were.
Military personnel take an oath to “…support and defend the Constitution of the United States…” It is a Constitution which for over 200 years did virtually nothing to “support and defend” its LGBT citizens and still they stepped up to support it, defend it, and give their lives for it.
It’s easy to wave the stars and stripes at a holiday barbecue, toss off some nationalist rhetoric, and proclaim yourself a “proud” American; but the true measure of a mighty patriot is fighting for the concepts of justice and equality, even though if those ideals hadn’t trickled down to you. Yet.
According to the Veteran’s Administration, throughout American history there have been 1.2M deaths during wartime.
Under the general assumption that 10% of the population is homosexual, that’s 120,000 LGBT Americans who as President Lincoln said “…gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
As we continue ever-forward, be mindful of our place in the vast tapestry of American freedoms fought for and earned.
LGBT Americans have proudly stood and died for this country as much as any other citizen.
For we are equal in all things American, including sacrifice.
This was written by one of our Contributing Writers and does not reflect the opinion of Instinct Magazine or the other Contributing Writers when it comes to this subject.