Current Commentary

Veterans Take
Guest Editor
Curtis Hendel


Memorial Day

By all accounts, it has been a long spring in this part of the country. The weather has not exactly cooperated with most of our plans, farmers are behind in planting, and anybody else that depends on the weather is in pretty much the same boat. The kids haven't even had a string of nice days to get ready for all of the outdoor activities associated with summer. We can even bark about the price of fuel and other problems in our everyday lives.

For most of us though, I think we are in pretty good shape. As our nation is at war, most of us are escaping the sacrifices that we have seen in the past. The exception, of course, are the members of our armed forces and their families. They are the ones feeling the war on a daily basis while the rest of our lives go on. In other wars the sacrifices were huge. 16 million men served during World War II, over 13 percent of our population. Everyone dealt with rationing of vital items and women left the house for the first time in masses to keep the country running. During Korea and Vietnam the draft found and disrupted many families.

To those that have served in years past, the last half of May features two important days. Last Saturday was Armed Forces Day, a day intended for our nation to thank those that are serving today and those that have served in the past. Next Monday is Memorial Day, one of our most important observations.

Memorial Day was first observed in 1868, in the wake of the Civil War, to honor all of those killed in service to their country. It lived on, in one way or another, for almost a century until President Lyndon Johnson officially dedicated it in 1966. World War I was an important part of the holiday's history, as Moina Michael added the wearing of poppies in honor of those killed in that war. That tradition lives on, with proceeds of the poppy sales going to help veterans. World War II would result in over 400,000 Americans killed in fighting across the globe. The staggering numbers reinforced the need to remember those that had died.

Today we still gather at local cemeteries to honor those that made the ultimate sacrifice, and also those that served their country, returned to make a life for themselves, and have now gone on to a better place. The ceremonies are relatively short, with a wreath laid at the base of the flagpole, prayers of remembrance from the clergy, and the Legion Honor Guard firing the salute. At the end, Taps is played as family members, friends, and comrades are remembered.

So next Monday, before you fire up the grill, head for a graduation party, or kick off your summer in any other way, consider yourself invited to your local cemetery for a short service. Check your local listings for time and place, and give just an hour of your weekend to honor those that protected and secured your freedoms. Let your attendance be your gift.

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