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Memorial Day’s forgotten meaning

by Larry Patrick

    The first day of summer isn’t until June 21st.  Unofficially, however, Memorial Day Weekend is considered the kickoff of the summer season.  Many of us are preparing for a 3-day weekend for all kinds of activities.  There’s the opening of Walsenburg Wild Waters, the train rides from La Veta to Alamosa, boating at Lathrop State Park, scenic drives through the Highway of Legends, picnics, family gatherings and so much more.

    Lost in all of this celebration of summer and an extra day off, is the real reason why we have Memorial Day.  Unless you are reading this article, you could go through the entire weekend without realizing the “true” meaning of Memorial Day.  The same can be said for July 4th and Labor Day.  To most Americans, they simply mean an extra day off with little thought as to why.  Many would say, “Who cares!”  The answer of course is that we should all care about the true meaning of these holidays.

    If it were not for the many brave Americans who gave their life in war for our country, we may not be enjoying all of the fun activities that the coming weekend represents to many of us.  Memorial Day is a time to reflect upon these brave men and women that fought and died, yes, died, for our freedom, so we can go about our planned activities of joy and delight.

    Memorial Day has been around since 1868.  It started to bring forth memories of those that died in the Civil War.  Flags were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  It was expanded to later observe all of those who died in wars involving Americans.  Originally, Memorial Day was observed on May 30 of each year.  It stood out with true meaning.  But later it was tied together with a weekend in May so Americans could enjoy time off.  This created the loss of memory of what this day is supposed to be all about.  Those of us that have served in various wars have an appreciation for this day to honor friends or family members that perished in war.

    While Memorial Day is observed for the memories of those that died in war, we can also take a moment to give recognition to our many injured soldiers in our armed services that face many difficult transitions  because of their willingness to serve.  Reflect for a moment to think about the young men and women who have just graduated high school or college that have decided to join the military.  They don’t have to do it but they choose to do it.  Say a little prayer for them too.

    The bottom line is that many of those who served in our armed services and who are no longer with us, would be happy to see us be able to enjoy our summer celebration outing this weekend.  But do all of them the honor of one or two little things like flying the American Flag or saying a silent prayer of thanks to all of them, even if you don’t personally know anyone who served and died.  You might also take a moment to thank someone you know who is now serving or plans to serve our country.  I would be neglectful if I left out the many civilian volunteers that have given their lives to serve our country during war.  Many of them have served in Iraq or other past wars to work on important missions on behalf of our country.

    Memorial Day is so much more than boating, picnicking, softball games, water parks, train rides and a deserved day off.     It’s remembering many of those that no longer get the chance to enjoy the holiday because they gave their life so that we all could.