Article and photographs contributed by David DeOrnellis.
Known as the unofficial start to summer, Memorial Day takes place on the last Monday of each May.
To many Americans, the holiday is an extra day off work – a three day weekend. Many people take their first vacation of the summer and spend the day at the lake, barbequing, or spending time with family. Most of us are guilty for forgetting why it was established: to give families who have lost loved ones a time to gather and remember those who were lost defending this great country.
The holiday gives them time to visit memorials and grieve if needed. Not to say barbeque and summer fun is a bad thing, but it’s important to stop and remember those who sacrificed their lives so we can do these things; they are the true heroes.
It’s believed people have celebrated Memorial Day in some way, shape or form since the post Civil War era. Historians also believe slaves would annually gather to pay respects to the Union soldiers who died helping to gain their freedom. Memorial Day was officially put into place as a national holiday in 1971. Typically, the President of the United States gives a speech at Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate those brave men and women who died protecting our country. One of the most famous of these speeches came from President Reagan who gave the Memorial Day speech back in 1982.
The direct quote from President Reagan’s speech in 1982, featured below, better helps to describe the true debt we owe our soldiers and the reality that we have no way to repay our debt to those who were willing to die for freedom and liberty for everyone in the U.S.A.
Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we—in a less final, less heroic way—be willing to give of ourselves.
It is a truly impactful statement that we all should take to heart, and remember that even though we can’t repay the fallen, we need to try our best to honor and remember them.
Local veterans Lyndall Bartels and Lloyd Miller spoke about what Memorial Day meant to them as veterans. Bartels, a member of the U.S. Navy from 1979 to 1981 said, “Memorial Day to me has the same meaning, since being deployed during peacetime. It is important to remember the guys before and after me that did sacrifice their life, or serve in time of war. Pat them on the back and thank them for their service”.
Miller served from 1966 to 1970 in the U.S. Navy. While on tour he traveled all over the Pacific on Commander Mine Sweeper 71 and Procyon AF-61. Miller believes Memorial Day is important to him because of the bond he shares with other veterans. “For most veterans, Memorial Day has a special meaning. I lost two classmates and friends in the war.”
This year let’s take the time to remember those who gave their life for our country, not just on Memorial Day, but all throughout the year. Also, know that the brave men and women in the military are what true heroes look like.