Memorial Day is a national holiday to remember and honor the American military members who died in the service of our country. Don't make it for anyone else. 

We have all lost friends and family members, and we miss them. However, Memorial Day is the one day a year our nation pauses to remember the men and women who died while serving on active duty in the defense of our nation.

I have long wondered what motivates people to believe they have the right to appropriate Memorial Day for their own purpose. The message of Memorial Day is muddled by people who claim the day for the memory of the dead people important to them, but who didn't die in the military service of America.

Why are so many people comfortable with stealing the valor that comes with Memorial Day?

Ignorance and ego.

The majority of folks who illegitimately claim Memorial Day for themselves and the memory of their dead loved ones are ignorant of the meaning of the holiday. These people genuinely don't understand the history or importance of the only day our country exclusively dedicates to honor the men and woman who died in defense of our nation and our freedom.

The other motivation for appropriating Memorial Day is ego. Our nation makes a big deal about Memorial Day, as we should, and maybe not a big enough deal. We celebrate it as a federal holiday, many people get the day off from work with pay, we have parades, volunteers place flags at the appropriate graves, and the local and national media covers the events. People want to be part of the day and feel that the day is about them and their personal loss. But if your loved one died, no matter how great they were, other than in the defense of America, Memorial Day isn't about them, or you.

Christians honor the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Good Friday. We honor the in-service sacrifice of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines on Memorial Day. Most would see the ignorance and ego in themselves if they tried to appropriate Good Friday for their own personal grief and loss.

I don't enjoy writing this piece, and some of you may feel I'm being cruel or dismissive of your loss. If you feel that way, it is based on your ignorance and ego.

Memorial Day is about the individuals who gave all for our country. Tyler Trahan grew up in Freetown and served with distinction in Naval Special Operations until he was killed in combat. Joseph Camara was a New Bedford police officer and a soldier. He was killed in combat as a soldier overseas. We don't honor Trahan because he was a great son or Camara because he was a police officer and a father. We honor them on Memorial Day because they died in combat.

Trahan and Camara were both great men--trust me, I knew them. We honor them because they died for us and for those who will come after us. We have Memorial Day, not for our loss, but to honor the heroes who died for us in the military.

The mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and children of these heroes are the only others who deserve recognition on Memorial Day. What kind of a person would undeservedly insert themselves on stage with a soldier's widow, a slain sailor's parents, or a fallen Marine's grieving child?

I have lost friends and family to disease, accidents and some even to old age, just like you. We have one day a year as a nation to remember those heroes who gave all to defend America. People do a disservice to those American heroes when they illegitimately force their personal loss into the Memorial Day weekend celebrations.

It is my experience that people who served in the armed forces of our nation are educated on the importance and uniqueness of Memorial Day. The men and women who serve our country are glad Memorial Day doesn't apply to them, and they have a deep respect for those it honors.

State and local governments have a responsibility to preserve Memorial Day, and not bend to the ignorance and egos of people who want to make the day about people who didn't earn this highest of American honor.

Claiming military honors not earned is a crime and commonly known as "stolen valor." While it isn't a crime to illegitimately claim Memorial Day it is still a form of stolen valor.

Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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