As a veteran, I get asked a lot about what is the difference between Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day.

I spent years thinking this over (it’s not as simple as you might think!), and I have come to a personal conclusion. The biggest difference between them is the guilt one feels about the particular day.

Each and every Memorial Day, veterans and all Americans remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and the ideals it stands for. Many of my veteran brothers and I have a beer to honor those that paid that terrible price.

In all the years I have had that beer, it has always been bitter, no matter the brand, no matter how cold it is, it’s bitter and never goes down easy. And I am going to say that I am very fortunate, I have never lost a brother-in-arms during combat.

Memorial Day is a somber day for me. I try to reflect on the year since the last one, and I am not a young man any more. Each year I am a little more grateful that so many of my brothers-in-arms are still here and, through the magic of technology, that we are still in touch.

The United States Marine Corps, 7th Marines TOWS in Somalia, early 1993. (Jose Rivera)

On Veterans Day, we celebrate those who have made the decision to serve this great country through military service.

In my mind, there are no “combat veterans” or “non-combat veterans.” Every veteran signed a document giving away their lives for however long they served, knowing that, in signing, the price included the possibility of dying.

So on Veterans Day, the beer is not bitter. It is not the best or worst, but it is “shared” with all veterans no matter the branch of service, or era in which they served.

But it is not a guilt-free beer, as veteran suicide rates have not dropped, and we are losing almost 22 veterans a day to suicide.

USA patch flag on a soldier’s arm. (Shutterstock)

Many veterans have physical or psychological traumas that impact their lives and their families’ lives.

We have been “at war” for over 25 years, starting with the Gulf War in 1990 (there has been no official end to that conflict), according to a Congressional Research Service Report.

The United States of America has been at war for over a generation. For those who served during the Gulf War, their children have come of age and can now also serve in some of the same places where their mothers or fathers were stationed when they served.

And so, Veterans Day, while not as somber as Memorial Day, is not a day of celebration for many veterans either.

Statue of Liberty on the background of flag USA, sunrise, and fireworks. (Shutterstock)

Finally, we come to Independence Day, or as we call it, the Fourth of July.

The Colonies began a formalized resistance to the British in 1775. There was one battle in Concord, which would be called the “First Shots of War” when eight Minutemen were killed and others wounded in a skirmish with the British Redcoats.

There would be more battles ahead in that war, but there would not be the kinds and quantities of bloodshed and combat deaths we have come to see in the last 100 or so years.

Because of the decision to become our own nation, America has become one of the most prosperous nations on earth.

Through two World Wars, several other wars, conflicts, interventions, and involvements, the United States has become a friend to many nations, protector, and defender of Freedom, and bitter enemy of communism, socialism, and terrorism.

And America has led the way to vastly improving the lives of its own citizens through economic opportunity and international commerce. We have improved lives all over the world through humanitarian efforts at the national, business. and personal levels.

So, on the Fourth of July, the beer is truly guilt-free, never bitter, always cold enough, and does not have a bad aftertaste. This Independence Day, my beer will be a bit more guilt-free than some, since I will be enjoying an alcohol-free beer.

It is not lost on me that I can say what I want about the beer—or about things more controversial or serious—since I also happen to live in the one country where free speech still exists, secured by the blood of the fallen, defended by the sacrifices of the living, from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

From us here at the The Beauty of Life (The BL), have a safe and wonderful Fourth of July!

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