Day should be for remembrance, honor tribute of fallen

It’s become a three-day weekend, a holiday that many people really don’t give that much thought to and one which some don’t really understand.

But Memorial Day is something we all need to take a closer look at and reflect on the real meaning of one of only two days dedicated in our country to those who have served our country.

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On Monday, a small group of people attended American Legion Post 353’s Memorial Day ceremony. Many of those obviously served their country. There were some families, some small children, but – like many ceremonies over many years – the crowd was small. Many people were at the lake, getting ready for a barbecue, taking the day off work, going to the variety of “big sales” advertised for that day.

That’s not what Memorial Day is all about and we should be ashamed we’ve lost that.

Veterans Day and Memorial Day are the only two times we, as American citizens, gather to remember those who have served our country. While Veterans Day, and our living military who have or are serving, are widely thanked, it’s in great part due to the efforts of school districts across the country. As it is done in Mustang, students and their teachers and administrators gather to hold assemblies and thank those who have fought for our freedoms, those who have traveled far from home to represent our country.

But Memorial Day is different. Maybe it’s because school is already out, maybe it’s because the loss doesn’t touch as many people, but it seems the importance of this day is swept under the rug. That’s certainly not the case for those who have lost a family member, but for many others, Memorial Day’s true meaning has been forgotten.

Memorial Day was established first as Decoration Day, an opportunity to honor soldiers lost in the Civil War. Originally held on a Sunday, it was eventually changed to make it a Monday holiday – and thus, a three-day weekend. Maybe that’s where the real reason for the day was lost. It doesn’t matter really, I suppose, but ask 10 people and perhaps six or seven of them will not realize that Memorial Day means exactly that – a time to remember and to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. It’s not a “holiday” and it’s also not a day to remember anyone who has died – it’s a day to remember those who have given their lives in service for their country.

Those words are used a lot – let’s face it, they sound dramatic, they conjure up images of heroic men who have done everything to ensure our freedoms. And let’s face it, war is not always that simple. Conflicts like the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan – there are well-known debates about the real reasons for them and questions about whether any of our freedoms were ever in peril. Was there a need for us to be there at all?

That’s a debate for another time. What we all know is that everyday people – people like you and me, our brothers, our sisters, our dads, our kids – have made the chance to dedicate their lives to serving their country. It doesn’t really matter their reasons for joining, the when’s or how’s – the fact is, they stayed. They faced the chance of death and ultimately, they gave their lives for a country that largely forgets them. That’s not right and it’s not worthy of these people and their families who put their own personal happiness and future aside to make the world a better place.

It’s Memorial Day – and not just on that day, but every day, we need to remember them and be thankful.