Most people look forward to Memorial Day because it is a day off of work – a chance to relax, get the grill going, and spend the beautiful day with friends and family. This federal holiday is officially observed as a day of remembrance, a day to honor those who have died while serving in the U.S. military.
Here at DePaul, it’s one of the few days we don’t have class, and usually an excuse to forget (for one day at least) that finals are just around the corner.
For Joey Franzese, 26, a DePaul junior and former Marine Corps officer, there is absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating the day in just that way. He began his tour in 2005 in Iraq and for five years traveled all around the country.
“Memorial Day is really about the men and women that served and never made it home,” Franzese said. “The way I look at it, it’s mostly a time to celebrate those people that made the sacrifice so that everyone could be here, and be free.”
“I like to hope everybody enjoys Memorial Day, for that reason,” Franzese said, “Have a drink, have fun and be with your friends and family. That’s what really matters.”
As a third generation veteran, patriotism has always been a part of Franzese’s life. Serving the country as a Marine runs in the family: His grandfather fought in World War II, his father in Vietnam, and Franzese deployed to Iraq at the height of America’s most recent war.
For Franzese, there is no proper way to go about celebrating this holiday. You could lie around in bed all day, set off fireworks, whatever makes people happy on their three-day weekend.
“You don’t have to fly an American flag – as a sign of respect, it’s very much appreciated – but the whole point is to do what you want and be free,” Franzese said. “There’s no standard to be met.”
Professor Joe Cappo, a graduate journalism instructor at DePaul, has a slightly different take on how Memorial Day should be observed.
“The best way to honor the fallen is by taking a couple of minutes away from the books, the TV, the iPhone,” Cappo said, “and simply meditate on those who literally gave their lives, so that we could live in a free and democratic society.”
Cappo was pursuing his own graduate degree at DePaul when he was drafted into the army in 1959.
“People of my era had a much sharper sense (and gratitude) for the military than young people today. We lived through World War II and the Korean conflict, in which hundreds of thousands of Americans were killed. That had a tremendous impact on the national psyche.
“The Vietnam War put a damper on the American feeling toward the fighting force because so many were opposed to the war…and there were atrocities committed by a few service people that made it even worse.”
Franzese has noticed a significant change in the way civilians receive veterans, and those on active duty.
He said that although people are not aware of what’s going on abroad unless it affects them directly, the reception soldiers receive when they return home is much warmer than what his father got. But then again, they aren’t in it for the glory.
“We all made the choice to serve,” Franzese said. “We know what we signed up for, and we didn’t do it for the recognition.”
As a private institution, DePaul’s veteran community on campus is not comprised of many students. But they do recognize each other, based on what sets them apart.
“There aren’t many of us on campus, I only know of about 15-20. But I can spot them,” Franzese said. “The way they carry themselves is just a little bit different, the way we act. We’re around.”
Cappo describes those who died in service as “our own national ‘saints.'” Remember them this Memorial Day, and spend it just as DePaul’s own veterans would.
DePaul will observe Memorial Day on Tuesday, May 31.
The DePaul University Student Veterans Union will hold an Interfaith Memorial Service on the 11th floor of the loop campus from 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
There will also be a Memorial Day Dinner in Room 120 of the Student Center, from 6-7:30 p.m. RSVP to this event at email@example.com.