Most people, especially workers are particularly excited every time Memorial Day come around. They enjoy the 3-day weekend, the time to come together with family and friends, and the time to prepare for the annual Memorial Day tradition -- THE BAR-B-QUE! American grocery stores are having a field day as they begin to stock and display hot dogs, hamburgers, potato chips, mustard potato salad, and those delicious honey baked beans. There also grand displays and sample tables being set up in the grocery stores to persuade you to buy what they believe is, "The Best Sauce In The World!". As people begin, their annual traditions of celebrating the Memorial Day weekend, many people do not know what Memorial Day really mean.
As has been often stated, freedom is not free. There is a cost and America’s cemeteries are littered with the remains of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. This is what Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service in the Armed forces.
As we begin to go to the beach, flood the movie theaters, and get the grill ready, please remember that it is important that you know and teach our children what Memorial Day truly is. Whether or not you approved the war, have problems with why we went to war, or whatever the reason is, please recognize that there are so many graves of fallen soldiers who have risked their lives in the fight to preserve of the basic civil liberties that we enjoy today.
Sadly, at many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer even know or remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. Though some towns and cities still hold Memorial Day parades, there are others who have not held a parade in decades. There are also some people who believe that Memorial Day is a day for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.
There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50’s on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye’s Heights In 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.
Now that you know what Memorial Day is, there are different things you can do to help restore the meaning of the holiday.
- Have a local parade in the honor of those who have died serving our country. The parade can include pictures and names of those who have died. Uniforms that have been worn in different wars can be placed on a float. Everyone can take a moment of silence at the end of the parade to honor those who have sacrificed themselves for our country.
- Have a Memorial Day party. At the party you can talk about the true meaning of Memorial Day. Have everyone bring something to the party that would symbolize the meaning of Memorial Day. For example, someone can bring movies related to the Memorial Day theme. Examples of movies are: Saving Private Ryan, Gunner Palace, and We Were Soldiers. Also, Another person can bring pictures and postcards that show some of the solders that fought in a war.
- Place a flag outside of your home. The flag symbolizes the people who have fought and died for our country. It not only shows that we remember but it is also a good way to remind others who pass your home.
- Take a trip to a memorial museum. This is a great way to learn about those who have died in a war. You will get to hear stories and see pictures. Many times there are tours given by professionals who can answer any questions you may have.
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And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me and I’ll proudly stand next to him to defend her still today, ‘cuz there ain’t no doubt I love this land, god bless the USA. -Lee Greenwood