I started filing an annual Memorial Day column a few years back, after witnessing bad behavior at a Columbus-area service. Here's an updated version. Its contents remain relevant, judging by the emails I receive each year:

COLUMBUS -- I walked into a coffee shop one holiday weekend a few years ago and was met with a loud, obnoxious "Happy Memorial Day" from the goofball barista behind the counter.

By that point in the day, I had heard or read the inappropriate greeting too many times and was sick of it. My response was something along the lines of, "Want to go spit on some people's graves while we're at it?"

The resulting argument was a waste of breath. I tried to explain that "Happy" isn't the right word to put with Memorial Day. It's a solemn occasion, a serious reminder of the sacrifices others have made on our behalf.

I paid for my drink and left. I'm sure he continued to shout "Happy Memorial Day" to everybody else who entered the business that day.

And that's a sad commentary on the collective memory (or lack thereof) of our culture when it comes to the men and women who have given their lives in military service to our country.

There are some who will argue that Memorial Day is happy, given the freedoms we enjoy. I've even read columns written by veterans who say it's perfectly alright to say "Happy Memorial Day" as a greeting over the coming three-day weekend.

That's nonsense.

You want to celebrate our nation and our freedoms and show your patriotism? There's a day for that -- July 4, Independence Day, when you can go out, light up some illegal fireworks, guzzle your beverage of choice and otherwise show your American pride.

You want to honor all veterans who have served our nation, particularly those who returned from the battlefield? There's a special occasion for that, too -- Veterans Day, in November.

You want to honor the men and women in active military service today? You can and should do that every day, via handshakes and hugs and cups of coffee and meals when you see them out and about. Or better yet, you can check on their families, take them out to dinner and otherwise lend a helping hand when our military members are on active duty.

But Memorial Day is a day of mourning and remembering the men and women who gave their lives in service for you and me and the rest of our country.

It's a day of respect and reverence.

Here's an imperfect comparison: We say Happy Easter, but we don't say Happy Good Friday, right?

Or this: Most of us don't go skipping and whistling into funerals, telling inappropriate jokes to family members standing in front of coffins.

Pete Seeger and The Byrds (and the Book of Ecclesiastes long before them) taught us there's a time for everything -- a time to laugh and a time to weep. Memorial Day is set aside for the latter and should be treated with some measure of quiet contemplation.

I realize this will fall on mostly deaf ears.

I've tried for years to get politicians to stop throwing candy at Memorial Day parades, demeaning the seriousness of the occasion and instead teaching children that it's all about sugar and squealing.

I've tried for years to convince people, old and young, to stop treating the cemetery like a playground, sitting on tombstones, taking selfies or otherwise goofing off on their cell phones during the proceedings.

I've tried for years to urge civilian men to remove their hats during the National Anthem.

It's all to no avail. Every year, I hear from veterans who say they've stopped attending Memorial Day services because of the lack of respect on display by the younger generation.

That's a shameful critique on where we are as a nation.

I understand you're looking forward to a holiday weekend and a day away from work.

I get that many people consider this the start of the summer vacation season, with amusement parks and swimming pools opening their doors to the masses.

By all means, gather with your families and enjoy the time with backyard barbecues.

But remember the purpose of this occasion. Take yourselves and your kids down to the cemetery for the Monday service. Think about the people who have died in your place.

And at the very least, stop with the proclamations of Happy Memorial Day.

We're not celebrating, we're mourning and comforting those who have been left behind.

Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at mkovac@recordpub.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.