SURRATT: On Memorial Day, remember those who protected us

Published 8:00 am Friday, May 26, 2023

This weekend, we observe — or celebrate, if you will — the first major holiday of the summer.

Memorial Day, of course, is Monday but the holiday’s observance starts Saturday heralding in what some folks claim is the start of summer and is celebrated by picnics, barbeques, gatherings, fireworks and one of my favorite things, the Indianapolis 500.

Here, we’ll remember the holiday with the placing of flags on the graves of the soldiers in the National Cemetery at the Vicksburg National Military Park on Friday, the annual Mississippi Symphony concert at the Vicksburg National Military Park Sunday at 7 p.m., and a parade and memorial services Monday.

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But we have to remember there is more to Memorial Day than barbeques, fireworks, car races and parties. Ever since I’ve been writing a column I’ve always written something on Memorial Day; I do it because I’m the son of two World War II veterans and because I believe we need to remember those who fought in our nation’s wars — living and dead.

I’ve also been fortunate over the years to be able to talk with World War II, Korea and Vietnam vets and tell their stories. That includes some Bataan Death March survivors who are superheroes in my book.

We should remember that Memorial Day was initially set to honor the Union dead who fought in the Civil War.

According to, the practice of honoring the fallen Union soldiers began in the late 1860s, when different towns and cities started holding springtime tributes to the fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

In May 1868, Gen. John A. Logan, the leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance on May 30 that he called “Decoration Day,” to decorate the graves of fallen Union soldiers. Logan said he chose May 30 because no major battle occurred on that day.

Decoration Day later became Memorial Day and a time to honor all who died in combat during the nation’s conflict. Its official date was set as the last Monday in May in 1968 and it became a federal holiday in 1971.

Today, we observe Memorial Day almost as a second Veterans Day and honor all vets, living and dead, for their service to the country and maybe that’s the way it should be.

All of our veterans who served in times of conflict deserve to be recognized; not just on Memorial or Veterans Day, but throughout the year. These are men and women who should be respected and honored because they made the decision to serve their country and go into harm’s way.

So this week, or any week, if you see a veteran tell them “thanks.” They deserve it.

And by the way, if you see a first responder while you’re out on your holiday activities, give them a thank you or a wave, or a thumbs up; they’re out there working to make sure you have a safe holiday. Enjoy your weekend.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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