It’s July, which means Independence Day is almost here: a day commonly celebrated by spending time with family and friends, eating hot dogs, and setting off fireworks.* This day is a time to remember the birth of our nation and honor our history. It’s also, apparently, a time for retailers to jump on the bandwagon with 4th of July sales. From 40% off appliances at Best Buy to deep discounts at Home Depot, these sales are particularly attractive to consumers.
But, are these types of sales watering down the true meaning behind Independence Day?
Independence Day isn’t the only holiday to suffer from this commercialization. This past Memorial Day, I noticed something strange. For the first time, I believe, there were multiple filters on Snapchat not for Memorial Day itself but for a “Three-Day Weekend!” written in red, white, and blue. Has Memorial Day been reduced to nothing more than a three-day weekend? Have we forgotten the true meaning behind Memorial Day?
Many Americans celebrate Memorial Day as the official start of summer with cookouts and relaxation as a result of an extra day off from work or school. Others may host firework shows* or use the three-day weekend as part of a vacation.
It seems that in recent years, the true meaning behind Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Veterans Day has been lost. Simply put: when did these holidays just become another opportunity to sell mattresses and lawn furniture?
According to Adweek, “eight in 10 U.S. adults plan to spend an average of $486 over the holiday weekend.” That’s a lot of income, which raises the question: how many retailers who align their sales events around memorial holidays are giving profits from holiday sales back to organizations that benefit veterans?
I fear that with the ever-increasing commercialism and consumerism in America, honor and respect of our veterans is getting lost. This perceived loss comes as a result of, primarily, the wide array of sales campaigns and advertisements surrounding these holidays.
If veterans are not benefiting from the sales created in their name, what is the point? For companies to make an easy profit? The answer, sadly, is yes. If the first thing the average American sees on Memorial Day is an ad for 30% off a new television, the connection between Memorial Day and sales is subconsciously made before the connection between the holiday and those that it honors: the veterans.
If you are a retailer who runs these types of sales, please consider the message you’re sending to your customers, along with what you’re doing with the profits you make during these events. Are these funds going towards organizations that help veterans? If not, and if you are financially benefiting from the sacrifice veterans have made for our country without giving back, this is a problem. Are there other holidays and events during the year that you can align yourself with?
If you are a consumer, maybe it’s time to consider the companies you choose to buy from. In addition to finding a great deal on an item you’ve been looking to buy, consider spending these holidays helping veterans in need by donating time and money at a local food bank, homeless shelter, or other nonprofit that assists veterans, such as the Gary Sinise Foundation and Building Homes for Heroes.
Remembering the true meaning behind the 4th of July and honoring our veterans on Memorial Day and Veterans Day are paramount. This respect is the least we can do to honor our country’s history and those who fought to preserve our freedom.
We wish all of you a safe and happy Independence Day.
*If your neighborhood or community uses fireworks to celebrate Memorial Day, Independence Day, or any other celebration, please remember: fireworks can be very traumatic for veterans or anyone suffering from PTSD. Please read this article on things to think about when celebrating with fireworks.
To better understand veterans with PTSD, we encourage you to watch the trailer for To Be of Service, a feature-length documentary film about veterans with PTSD and the service dogs that help them return to the world.