Please don’t say ‘Happy Memorial Day’

Don't say "Happy Memorial Day"

If there’s one thing news anchors—usually inexperienced ones—do that makes me cringe, it is wishing people a “Happy Memorial Day.” For those of you who have a military member in your family, you probably know where I am going with this. For those who do not, allow me to explain.

Too many people conflate Memorial Day, a time to honor the sacrifices of Americans who have died in combat, with Veterans Day, in which we thank veterans for their service. In this era of commercialized holidays, I can see how this happens.

Memorial Day has become synonymous with picnics, bargain shopping and the kickoff to summer. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the long weekend and time with your family, but we need to remember what this holiday is actually for. It is a day of commemoration, not celebration. It is more than a day off.

Wishing someone a “Happy Memorial Day”—particularly a veteran— is asking them to be happy on a solemn, often painful, occasion.

Memorial Day is designated to remember the lost. It is a time to honor fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, family members and friends who proudly wore the uniform, but never returned. It is a day for gathering at cemeteries, for moments of silence, for tributes and parades of honor. Saying “Happy Memorial Day”—however innocently—is awkward at best and can be offensive. If you want to read up on the history of the holiday this article covers it nicely.

So what should we say on Memorial Day?

I’ve asked veterans this question directly, while attending Memorial Day services as an anchor and reporter.  They want you to understand Memorial Day is difficult for them. As many of us are turning on the grill or browsing online sales, they are thinking of people they served with whose lives were cut short. Friends they miss. Family members who are no longer here. They wish more people would use the day to pause, remember and reflect.

Don’t thank them for their service. It’s NOT Veterans Day, nor is it military appreciation day. Rather, pay homage to the men and women who have died to protect our freedoms. Tell them your thoughts are with our nation’s military families and those who have lost loved ones. A simple we’re thinking of you and we care is enough.

You may have heard the saying “freedom isn’t free” our veterans want you to consider that. Go ahead, enjoy the holiday weekend, but don’t forget what it’s all about.


  1. Onlinepharmacywithoutscripts | 25th May 18

    When do the parades happen please? Are they at specific times, on specific days? I don”t want to miss them. Thank you for your help

    • laveremis | 29th May 18

      I apologize for my slow response to this—I’ve been away from my computer this weekend. Memorial Day parades and observances vary from city to city. It is best to check with your local TV station or newspaper for dates and times.

  2. Elyse Marie McDonald | 26th May 18

    I feel, as a veteran myself, I do not agree with the sorrow here. I am thankful for their sacrifices.

    • laveremis | 29th May 18

      Hi Elyse, thanks for your comment. I’m glad to hear it is not a sorrowful holiday for you! It’s one of those occasions that can be very different for each individual given their personal experiences and how recently they may have lost someone. I am simply trying to argue for sensitivity and awareness that Memorial Day has a purpose. BTW, Thank YOU for your service!

  3. linda | 29th May 18

    Thank you for the reminder Lindsay. It makes me sad that I, and so many others, forget very quickly the heartache that remains when a cherished one doesn’t come back home. And also the duty we have to gratefully remember the selflessness of those who have served.

  4. BonnieFlanagan | 26th May 20

    Instead of using a long weekend to commemorate Memorial Day, we need to set a specific date like Veterans Day and not always tack it to a weekend. People aren’t smart enough to understand that all three day weekends are not for celebrating. 911 always falls on September 11th whether it’s a weekend or a week day and we remember it with honoring the dead, the fallen and first responders. Let’s move Memorial Day to a specific date not a Monday every year! This is not a duplicate comment! It is my first post.

    • laveremis | 28th May 20

      Hi Bonnie,
      That is truly a great idea – The separation would definitely help set people’s minds up to remember what this day is really for. Wish we could make it happen!

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *