JAMESTOWN – As Memorial Day approaches, Americans plan picnics and coordinate with families to have the first good party of the summer season.
I wonder, however, if we even remember the reason for the day? Do we know how important the day really is?
Memorial Day has been celebrated since 1866 in the United States. The celebration started in both the North and South when people decorated the graves of soldiers as the country tried to heal from the devastating effects of the Civil War.
Originally, the holiday was called Decoration Day due to the decorating of soldiers graves.
The Day was not a Federal Holiday until June 28th, 1968, and became law in 1971. It is celebrated on the last weekend in May, and is the first official summer holiday.
Memorial Day is the one day set aside to remember all soldiers that have lost their lives in battle for the United States of America. To date, the total U.S. deaths related to armed conflict in defense of our great nation and its causes is 1,354,664.
The number represents the many men and women who have given their lives so that we may have the freedoms we enjoy.
On this Memorial Day, as the smell of backyard barbecues and the sounds of laughter and family times move through our neighborhoods, I wonded again if we remember the real reason for the day?
The greatest generation includes those who fought World War 2, and most of them are gone.
Unfortunately, due to agent orange and a host of other related issues, our Baby Boomer Vietnam Veterans aren’t far behind.
We documented many of the stories from World War 2, but are we doing the same with the Vietnam Veterans that we are losing every day? What about those of the Gulf War, Operation Restore Hope in Somalia, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom?
These young men and women are returning each day, many of whom are injured. and some in flag-draped caskets.
In the Veterans Corner here at WNY News Now, we are trying to draw attention to the honorable men and women who have served and sacrificed for the many freedoms we enjoy almost without a second thought. Additionally, we wanted to draw your attention to those heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice for your freedom.
I drive by Lakeview Cemetery often, and right across from a well-established coffee stop, stands a Soldiers Cross as a marker in the cemetery.
I look at the line at that coffee shop and wonder why the line at the cemetery across the street isn’t longer, or why it doesn’t exist at all.
I’m hoping on Monday, May 28th, the line of people placing flowers on soldiers’ graves like the one I’ve described is longer and lasts all day.
Calvin Coolidge, as part of his acceptance speech for the Republican vice-presidential nomination on July 27th, 1920, cautioned the country against abandoning its social contract with its warriors.
“The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.”
So, as you plan your Memorial Day weekend, plan a few extra minutes to take the time to go to our cemeteries and lay a flower on the grave of a soldier. Explain to your children how that hero is responsible for all they have and the freedoms that they enjoy.