Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Memorial Day... And Thank You

Today is Memorial Day. Originally known as Decoration Day, the holiday was created after the Civil War to memorialize both Union and Confederate soldiers who died during that war. Though it was done unofficially before the Civil War, the practice of decorating the graves of soldiers began before the war. It became a common practice during and after.

By the 20th century, it had been changed to Memorial Day and had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

Many people in this country get Memorial Day confused with Veterans' Day. And while they both honor veterans, Veterans' Day honors all veterans and Memorial Day is specifically for those who made that ultimate sacrifice in service to their country. 

Sadly, many Americans see Memorial Day simply as a day of barbecues, burgers, and fun rather than thinking about the true meaning of the holiday. Without those fallen soldiers and the ones who take their place, America never would have become the nation she is today. We are able to celebrate and enjoy the day thanks to all of our veterans but specifically, thanks to those who were willing to sacrifice their own lives for us.

It has been said that "A veteran is someone who, at some point in his/her life, writes a blank check to "The people of the United States of America" in the amount of "Up to and including my life." Never is that saying more true than on Memorial Day, set aside to honor those who made that sacrifice. 

Don't get me wrong - I have the utmost respect for all men and women who serve in our military. They deserve no less. But not everyone who serves actually goes into harm's way (I didn't) and those who do deserve special recognition and respect. And those who didn't return deserve honor.

In 1991 my family and I were in Leavenworth, Kansas. The Saturday before Memorial Day, along with other volunteers, we went to the National Cemetery on Fort Leavenworth and placed flags before the gravestones. It gave a whole new meaning to my perspective on Memorial Day. If you ever have the chance to do that I would recommend it. It's humbling.

So to all my fellow veterans out there who read my words - thank you for your service. To those who made that ultimate sacrifice - there are no words I can say to explain my thanks to you. You did something I never did in military service - put yourself in harm's way for your fellow Americans. You died for me, my family and friends, and for all citizens of the United States. And I want to recognize you for it.

Thank you for your sacrifice and dedication. I won't be celebrating today. I will be solemnly grateful.

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