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Remembering the fallen

This past weekend the nation celebrated Memorial Day weekend with picnics, parades, family events and, of course, sales. What would a holiday be without deep discounted sales on a day set aside to remember and honor those who gave the ultimate price for our freedom? Sarcasm aside, maybe it’s time to reflect on what Memorial Day was truly intended for.

Initially known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember and honor members of the United States military, both men and women, who died during their military service to America. Union soldiers were the first to be honored following the end of the Civil War. Communities at the site of major battles such as Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania and Charleston, South Carolina, along with communities throughout various parts of the country, were among the first to recognize the military for their sacrifice to their country. Today, many Americans fly their flags at half-staff from dawn until noon. Each Memorial Day, volunteers from different organizations make it their mission to put a small American flag at every single grave in military cemeteries throughout the country. It is a sight not soon to be forgotten.

Four members of my family rest in the Columbarium at Arlington Cemetery. Row after row of walls continue in a maze, each niche containing the cremated remains of someone’s mother, father, grandparent, husband, brother, sister or child, who at one time served their country. They include the wives and husbands of those who served in the military. Visitors gaze out across the green hills of Arlington Cemetery, each tombstone lined up in perfect precision, the air palpable with grief and sorrow but at the same time pride for the sacrifices their loved ones gave for our freedom. Those who are buried at military cemeteries may have died in battle or years later. They are soldiers, airmen and sailors from every branch of the service and from every war. The air is still, sacred and full of reverence. That feeling prevails from the graveside of John F. Kennedy to the simple graves throughout the hillsides of Arlington Cemetery.

Without the dedication of our military, one has to ask themselves where would we be without their service and where would we as a country stand today.   Americans, as a nation, owe our military a debt that can never be repaid. We owe them our very freedom, our rights and our liberty. These men and women have fought for us, suffered injuries they may carry with them a lifetime, and they have died for us, for each and every American. They deserve a special day of thanks and recognition.   They deserve so much more.