Memorial Day: A time to mourn, a time to celebrate

Published 2:08 pm Friday, May 27, 2022

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Memorial Day marks one of the most hallowed holidays of the year.
We are reminded of the weight of the day each year as the names of those lost in battle, lost since their return from service or never found are read in ceremonies throughout the country.
This year, Boy Scouts will read the names of the 285 men from Carter County killed in America’s conflict at a Memorial Day ceremony Monday. The names are etched on black granite monuments at the Carter County War Memorial.
We are reminded of Memorial Day’s presence each year as red, white, and blue ribbons mark the day and graves in local cemeteries are marked with flowers and other tokens of remembrance.
And, each year, we are reminded of the grief and sense of loss that never goes away for the men and women in uniform who paid the ultimate price to guarantee we can still mourn and celebrate their lives together.
And, this year it is more painful as we are reminded of the 19 school children and two teachers killed in a mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas school. No, they were not servicemen and women killed in war, but they were innocent children gunned down in a school room. Yes, they need to be remembered.
Memorial Day is also a day for celebration, unity and togetherness. Every community shows that no matter the year one was lost or the war in which one was lost, their memories are forever engrained in our history. We gather under the flags and amongst the flowers to hear their stories and play music in their honor. Afterwards, we share food and drink with the community, family and friends.
Memorial Day is unique because of the day’s gravity and its history. It’s ultimately a day to reflect on those who are lost but it’s also a patriotic occasion to show that not only are they not forgotten, they are celebrated for their selflessness.
We all have a connection to someone lost in war or a veteran who has since passed. We all have reason to observe Memorial Day.
The Americans we honor each offer lessons on sacrifice, service, and the defining of a nation.
In the shadow of the Civil War about 150 years ago, there was a recognition that those who gave their lives for our country deserved a day of honor. It was essentially a local tradition for generations, a day when the graves of soldiers were decorated with U.S. flags.
Memorial Day was marked for years on March 30, before the Uniform Monday Holiday Act parked it on the final Monday of May to establish a three-day weekend for federal employees. That didn’t take effect until 1971, during the Vietnam War.
If anything, a long weekend means it should be easier to carve out time to mourn. Back in 2000, a year before 9/11, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act. It was intended as a reminder of the meaning of Memorial Day, encouraging Americans to pause for a minute at 3 p.m. on the holiday to remember those who died shielding our freedoms.
It was well-intended, but has already been largely forgotten. A day on the calendar should be enough of a motivation to establish personal traditions to thank the fallen. A pause to consider a soldier’s gravestone. An hour or so at a local ceremony. A dive into family history. A conversation with a veteran. The sharing of posts on social media about the people this day is designed to honor.
It’s not hard to salute. But we all should raise our hands to participate in this most American of holidays.
Thank you to all who have dedicated their lives to serving the country and to those who have paid the ultimate price.

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