As others here at The Mount Airy News have stated so well in a couple of columns last week, this is Memorial Day weekend, and while so many simply view it as a nice three-day weekend, or the start of the summer vacation season, its true meaning is far more solemn.
It is, of course, a day specifically set aside to remember and honor those who have died in military service to the nation.
The origins of the day are a little murky, with competing organizations, cities, and even historians claiming something different. The day grew out of the practice of laying flowers and other adornments at the graves of fallen soldiers, and began during the U.S. Civil War.
Some claim it began in Warrenton, Virginia, in 1861, though that claim didn’t surface until the early 20th century. Women in Savannah, Georgia, decorated Confederate troop graves there in 1862.
Others point to the cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, as the start of Memorial Day, while people in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, like to claim the practice began there in 1864.
No matter where it began — and there are other claims across the nation as the birth place of the practice — its meaning is the one thing everyone should agree to remember.
From the Revolutionary War through the most recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, the United States has been blessed with men and women who heed the call to service when the nation is in need, giving up their regular daily routine and sacrificing to go wherever that need is present.
They have done this for one primary reason: to keep America safe, to help the nation remain great.
For some of these people serving, that has meant laying down their very lives for the cause of preserving and protecting the United States.
Monday is a federal holiday, making a nice three-day weekend when the weather’s getting hot and summer’s just around the corner. Some folks take a Friday vacation day and make it a four-day mini-vacation, a time to visit the beach, hang out with family, hold cookouts, or maybe just spend some down time resting and recharging the batteries.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying this weekend, making it a nice time for family and play. To give us all that ability, the right to do largely as we please, the opportunity to earn the means to be able to do this, is part of the lifestyle these men and women laid down their lives to protect.
What we hope everyone will do, however, is spend some time this weekend remembering those who did make that ultimate sacrifice. There are numerous Memorial Day events this weekend, and we would like to think they will be standing-room-only crowds, filled by people who truly are thankful to those soldiers and other military personnel who have given their all in service to the nation.
And even if you find yourself unable to attend one of the services, a little quiet reflective time in honor of those who have fallen, maybe a prayer for their families and friends left behind, would certainly be appropriate.
However it’s done, we hope all will recall what this holiday is truly about, and celebrate the lives — and honor the sacrifices — of those who have given their lives in service to the nation.