On Memorial Day, strangers and friends come up to me, offer their hand and thank me for my service. I have one immediate reaction. Why would anyone thank me for my friends dying? This is Memorial Day, not Veterans Day. Do not thank a living veteran on Memorial Day. Thank a veteran on Veteran's Day.

Americans have lost sight of the meaning behind Memorial Day.

Memorial Day first started out as Decoration Day. According to the website va.gov, "Decoration Day was established three years after the Civil War ended on May 5, 1868. It was a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers, both Confederate and Union." Memorial Day officially became a national holiday by an act of Congress in 1971.

My heart breaks with the shift in taking a day to honor the men and women of our Armed Services who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. The United States of America places a higher value on barbecues and consumerism over patriotism. A weekend for corporations to offer sales to pollute the morality and wallet of our society. This three-day weekend has mutated into the self-centered start of summer. A time to honor yourself with a new purse or washer and dryer. A day off school to get a tan. Time off work to get drunk. These are the greedy thoughts that flood the minds of many Americans with Memorial Day approaching.

Dave Stancliff of the Eureka, Calif., Times-Standard states, "Traditional observance of Memorial Day has faded over the years. Many Americans have forgotten its meaning and traditions. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember to fly the flag at half-staff for the day." The sight of a flag at full-mast feels like fratricide. A homegrown lapse in flag etiquette strikes every veteran like a red, white and blue friendly fire bullet to the heart.

America's reputation for being the land of the free paid for by the brave, lays waste. Now we are the land of selfish paid for by people we do not care about, nor pay tribute to.

The American public can change that. By doing so will help our society once again look outward and no longer inward. Not much is required and it is your patriotic duty. Utilize Monday, May 25, to pay respect and remember. Make it a silent, personal holiday. Bow your heads, remember their ultimate sacrifice, and honor those who have died. Do not raise your flags to full-mast. Lower your flags to half-mast. Exclude the living Veterans from this holiday. If you want to give thanks, save it for the appropriate holiday, Veterans Day. Nevertheless, remember the real meaning behind Memorial Day and never forget.

William Sanchez

Bridgeport