Memorial Day: A day to remember our fallen servicemen

Published 12:53 pm Monday, May 29, 2017

Monday is Memorial Day. It means different things to different people — the beginning of summer, a day off from work, picnics and swimming, parades and ceremonies to honor veterans, etc.

At the Veterans Administration Cemetery at Mountain Home, the Boy Scouts will place small American flags on the graves of soldiers, who served their country in the military. Some are young, many are old. Some fought in wars, others served during a time of peace. The small flags are a reminder of the many men and women who have served in the military.
All too often we tend to forget exactly what Memorial Day honors: those American men and women who died during the course of combat.
Memorial Day was first observed in 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It was later changed from honoring the dead from the Civil War to honoring the dead from all American wars.
It’s hard to imagine, but during the Civil War we lost more Americans (620,000) than we did in both World Wars combined (521,000).
Once known as “Decoration Day,” it was traditionally observed on May 30. Now it is on the last Monday in May to create the three-day weekend. A federal mandate in 1971 set the observance on the last Monday of May.
This ensured long weekends for those of us lucky to have the day off to grill, travel, visit with friends and family, and do whatever else we want on Memorial Day.
But the real meaning of the day is not a cause to celebrate, but one to remember — American servicemen who died on the field of combat and returned home inside flag-draped coffins.
Veteran’s Day and Armed Forces Day, by contrast, both honor those among us who have served or are still serving in the military. On those days — and of course not just those days — we reach out to vets and current military members and thank them for wearing the uniform and facing grave danger.
This Memorial Day, we not only remember our fallen heroes, but all our servicemen. How true the lyrics sung by Billy Ray Cyrus: “All gave some; some gave all.”
A number of Carter Countians are interred at the VA Cemetery at Mountain Home, others at Happy Valley Memorial Park, Highland Cemetery, the historic Green Hill Cemetery, Lakeview Cemetery, the Patton-Simmons Cemetery, and in numerous other community and family cemeteries. They served in the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan.
While we should honor these men and women every day for the profound contribution they have made to securing our nation’s freedom, we should honor them especially on Memorial Day. We are fortunate to live in a land of prosperity and in freedom and to observe a day of remembrance for those men and women who have defended our country.
The sacrifice of those who died in service for our country should be remembered, and that remembrance should be more than just a family get-together or a day in the park. At the very least, we should all take a moment to reflect upon those who died in service and explain what the day means to our children. It is a tradition worth carrying on.

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