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Memorial Day: A time of reflection and remembrance

For many, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer. The three-day weekend to break out the barbecue, begin to wear white, head to the swimming pool or to the beach with family and friends, and just maybe, break out Old Glory to display.
For some, Memorial Day is something to “celebrate” as it means a day off from work. Over the years, Memorial Day has shifted in its meaning. Some remember it is a day to remember all those who have passed. That sentiment may be nice, but it is not the true meaning of the day.
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for U.S. soldiers who died in military service. It was first observed in 1868, when flowers were placed on graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It later changed from honoring the dead from the Civil War to honoring the dead from all American wars. 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.
Around Memorial Day, Veterans of Foreign Wars members and American Legion Auxiliary volunteers distribute red poppies in exchange for donations to programs that aid disabled veterans. The tradition began after World War I was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Field” which described the wild red poppies growing on a Belgian battlefield. Wearing a red poppy soon became tradition in memory of the sacrifices of war.
In recent years, Boy Scouts have placed American flags at soldiers’ grave sites.
At one time, there were more parades and large-scale community remembrances. But, this year Memorial Day will be different. For one, most public pools will not be open due to the coronavirus, and there will be no public gatherings or parades. Citizens are being urged to play it smart by maintaining their distance from one another and not being part of large gatherings.
But, you can bet if the weather is pretty, folks will be out. Even a chance of thunderstorms isn’t expected to dampen people’s pent-up demands for a change of scenery after weeks of isolation. But COVID-19 remains a highly transmittable and potentially lethal virus with scant treatment options and no vaccine. Citizens who venture out of their homes should take extra precautions such as wearing a mask, remaining at least 6 feet apart, washing hands frequently and staying home if sick. Those who feel fine also need to bear this in mind: This virus can be spread before an infected person feels the first symptoms. That’s one reason the world now has a pandemic on its hands.
We all want restaurants, shops, and businesses to bounce back, but that will happen only when everyone feels confident that our outdoor places such as the lake, hiking and biking trails, restaurants, streets, attractions and parks are safe again.
We hope you enjoy your day off and whatever fun time you have planned with your family. But 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.