Memorial holiday’s true meaning

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Memorial holiday’s true meaning
by Dino Ciliberti 

Summer is so close.

You can almost breathe in the sea air. You can almost smell the barbecue. You can almost taste the hot dogs.

Yes, summer is finally arriving, at least unofficially, with the Memorial Day weekend.

But before you get ready to enjoy the sun, surf and sand, take a moment next weekend to think about something else other than summer – think about service.

Think about the men and women who serve our country.

And think about the ones who gave their lives so we can have the freedom to enjoy our lives…

     

We forget at times that America is still a country at war. We are so numb these days to the death toll of U.S. soldiers in Iraq that often we don’t even give it a second thought.

This isn’t the Vietnam War where our citizens are revolting against the government.

Yes, people will gather and hold signs stating their displeasure. People will argue that we’ve done enough with Iraq and it’s time to bring our troops home.

And most polls will show that Americans are unhappy with how President Bush has handled the Iraq conflict.

But nobody is staging major protests like during the Vietnam War.

You see more of those about immigration than about our blood being spilled on foreign soil.

Most of us really seem to forget the definition of Memorial Day.

Ask many people and they won’t even really know what the day is supposed to mean. Or maybe they don’t really care.

Memorial Day used to be a sacred day.

How many can actually say that they take in a parade or go to a ceremony to see a flag raised or a wreath placed on a grave.

I’m sure not many young people do this. I’m sure not too many people in general do this.

We would rather bask in the warmth of the sun and kick back on a holiday than really take the time to pay our respects to those who have died in our nation’s service.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed a holiday in New York in 1873. By 1890, it was recognized by all of the northern states.

The South, though, wouldn’t join in. Those states honored their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in all wars).

Now every state celebrates Memorial Day on the last Monday in May. That date was passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 to ensure a three-day weekend for federal holidays.

But has it really just become a three-day weekend?

Maybe we have lost the significance of this important day. Veterans Day seems to be the one day we can count on now to remember our veterans – but that day is for the soldiers who are still among us.

What about our forgotten heroes?

Who will remember them?

We should all be able to devote a portion of Memorial Day – even a small amount of time at that – to doing something to honor our heroes.

So go have that barbecue. And enjoy the beach.

But do something to memorialize our fallen soldiers.

We couldn’t enjoy this holiday if it wasn’t for them.

 


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