Factories have been humming for the firearm and ammunition industry. Business has been brisk over the past couple months. Even ranges that were forced closed by the coronavirus pandemic are starting to reopen their doors. For two months, America has been cooped up, but life still seems to move at a dizzying pace.
But not on Memorial Day. On Monday, May 25, we pause.
Sure, businesses will be open. Even gun stores and ranges. Some will be open for the first time in months. It’s easy to understand why America is eager to get back to what life was like before lockdowns, facemasks and social distancing.
On this day, though, we pause.
Even if it’s for a moment. Maybe just an hour. Maybe it’s the quiet reflection with a couple close friends who share an understanding that in those moments nothing really needs to be said. They just know that on Memorial Day, we pause.
This year, Memorial Day is certainly different. This is a day normally spent decorating the headstones of lost friends. Arlington National Cemetery, where many of my fellow Marines, sailors, soldiers and airmen are buried, is closed to all but immediate families.
Those families will spend time with their lost loved ones. That doesn’t subtract from the debt of gratitude felt by those of us who served with them feel. The fallen swore an oath to defend our nation, our Constitution, our way of life and to defend one another. They fulfilled that oath to their last breath.
They gave the very best of who they were so we could be the very best of who we are. That is reflected in the character of our industry that continues to serve our nation’s military and during this time of crisis, has served our communities. Our industry, the firearm and ammunition industry, is full of veterans. My own experience isn’t unique. It’s not extraordinary. It is, however, fortunate. It’s made me, and our nation, deeply humbled and grateful.
We are an industry with an umbilical connection to our military. The factories that produce our favorite sporting rifles, shotguns and handguns also produce the arms our servicemembers carry into war. The flags that fly in front of our businesses are reminders of the terrible cost of freedom. The rights and freedoms we enjoy today are purchased with a heavy price. It’s truly a debt that cannot be fully repaid.
So, we pause. In that quiet moment, we remember. While we mourn their loss, we celebrate that such men and women lived. We also celebrate that in that brief time they lived, we lived alongside them. We heard their laughter. We comforted their pains. We shared their burdens and in their sacrifice we share their legacy.
We pause to treasure their memory. We pause to honor their commitment, even to the point of their own lives. It is entirely appropriate that, in the midst of a pandemic fighting a virus and the fears and concerns that go with it, we remember those who knew the dangers, who knew the fear and who knew the cost. Yet, they braved ahead anyway.
They are in our hearts. Forever young. Forever loved. Forever honored.
On Memorial Day, we pause because for however brief, we walked in the company of heroes. On Memorial Day, we honor them.
Mark Oliva is the Director of Public Affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. He is a retired Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant with 25 years of service, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Albania, and Zaire.