Archive for Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Revive meaning of Memorial Day

June 1, 2005

In the olden days, Memorial Day would have meant an all-day community-wide celebration.

As it was, Sunday afternoon, veterans and their families marked the holiday weekend virtually alone at Tonganoxie's VFW Memorial Park.

The event, in which members of Tonganoxie's VFW and American Legion participated, included a talk by the Rev. Joe Martin, Basehor, a gun salute and playing of Taps. Afterward, the VFW auxiliary served cookies and tea in the nearby shelter house.

Though the event was open to the public and was publicized ahead of time, few, if any, people who had no close connection to the American Legion or VFW attended.

The ceremony's gunshots resounded throughout the city. But it's possible they fell on deaf ears.

After all, nowadays we seem to think of Memorial Day as a time to get the boat out, hold a family gathering and take bouquets of flowers to the cemeteries.

It's still that.

But there's more to it.

According to the Web site,, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed the first Memorial Day on May 5, 1868. That's when flowers were placed on graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

After World War I, the holiday was changed to honor Americans who had died fighting in all wars, not just the Civil War.

Chances are most of us know someone who has fought in a war -- fought to ensure our nation's freedoms.

Obviously, there are men and women standing up to serve our nation today, and putting their lives at risk each day.

For instance, Iraq would be a terrifying place to be right now. Yet our military continues to serve.

Whether we are for the war or against it, we all benefit from our freedoms that stem from our nation's military presence.

It would be nice, we would think, if the world would get along and no military would be needed.

But then we look back to 9-11 and we know there are some people and societies who will never get along, who will never forgive and who will do whatever it takes to cause harm to others.

We are not the perfect country. But I don't know of any other nation in which I would rather live. And I pray our nation's children of today and their children and theirs will be so lucky to live in a society where they feel as safe and have as many freedoms as we do.

Privileges such as that don't come easily. As we've learned, they come with sacrifice.

Perhaps then we should make note, as individuals and as a community, to do what we can to thank those who have served, or who are serving in the military.

It might be as simple as saying hello and thank you. Or, as in the case of Memorial Day weekend, it might be as simple as marking your calendar to take a walk to the park -- a park built and maintained by veterans -- and attending the ceremony next Memorial Day.

The veterans will be there.

Will you?

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