Remember the real reason we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend

Published 9:34 pm Saturday, May 28, 2016

Monday is Memorial Day. A day celebrated by barbeques, parades, patriotic music, baseball games shopping specials and sales and relaxing at home.

And somewhere, in the midst of all the hype, the bargains, the ribs and burgers that will be dished out tomorrow, we will have forgotten why we observe the day.

The first Memorial Day was observed in Waterloo, N.Y., on May 5, 1866, so residents could decorate the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War with flowers and flags. The observance was designated Decoration Day and set on May 30, 1868 as a time when the Union Civil War dead were honored by the decoration of their graves. Decoration Day was later changed to Memorial Day, and after World War I was designated a day to remember and honor not just those who died in the Civil War but those who died in all of America’s wars. It became a federal holiday in 1971.

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So now, 150 years after the first Memorial Day observance, we are again preparing to remember not only those who died in the service of their country, but those who remain on active duty in the U.S. armed services across the world — the men and women who remain that buffer that helps us take time to hold cookouts and even shop until we drop.

And still we forget the sacrifices of those who died in combat and those who put on the uniform and go in harm’s way daily. We watch the patriotic programs, listen to the speeches and hear the music, and the next day we return to our daily routine and the reason for the holiday we just observed is now a memory.

It shouldn’t be that way.

Regardless of how we feel about the Civil War, or Vietnam or our country’s participation in the Middle East conflicts, we should respect the people who gave their lives in service of their country and those who are still out there serving.

These are people who were and are willing to sacrifice their lives for their country. It’s quite possible they didn’t agree with the government’s foreign policy or even with the decision to go into a hostile territory, but they went because it was their duty. They went because they felt a higher calling than their personal feelings.

We all know someone who served, whether they are alive or dead, and we should honor their willingness to go into combat to defend and protect the ideals of their country. And it’s that service we should remember and honor, not just Monday, but everyday.