I enjoy parades and believe they are a great way to celebrate certain holidays. But being inherently festive and occasionally frivolous, they miss the point of Memorial Day.

Watching a local lawmaker toss candy to children last week, I began rethinking how we should laud our military personnel who have died during times of war.


A variety of people participated in a neighborhood Memorial Day parade I watched May 31. Kids lining the street scrambled to grab some of the goodies they dispersed along the route.


Parades are common on Memorial Day, as they are for other times of celebration or recognition. They are a true slice of Americana — featuring marching bands, churches, community groups and elected officials.


I enjoy parades and believe they are a great way to celebrate certain holidays. But being inherently festive and occasionally frivolous, they miss the point of Memorial Day.


In contrast, the Fourth of July cries out for a parade. An Independence Day parade is both entertaining and patriotically inspiring.


This in no way is meant to question the intent of those who organize Memorial Day parades or diminish the many hours of hard work they contribute. Such events have long been a tradition in this country and are genuinely designed to honor our war dead.


But these parades can divert our attention from what’s important. They typically name a grand marshal, for example, someone of significance to be honored on this occasion.


Memorial Day, however, already has hundreds of thousands of honorees who are no longer around to receive the tribute they deserve. It was set aside to remember those who gave what Abraham Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.” Memorial Day is a solemn occasion and should be observed this way.


Spend the day in a cemetery poring over the names of all those killed in our many conflicts. Or reach out to someone — a parent, spouse or child — who will forever bear the burden of war.


I cannot imagine what those who’ve lost loved ones in war have to endure each day. It’s possible they’re able to press on only because their sense of pride overwhelms their grief.


It’s a tragic irony that the finest among us are the first ones to die defending the freedoms we cherish. War is often a necessary evil, but it is an evil nonetheless. By soberly contemplating how much we’ve lost as a terrible consequence of war, we may feel compelled to end the need for this sacrifice.


Suburban Life Publications