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School’s out. Businesses are closed. The smell of grills drifting over the neighborhood. For many people it’s a three-day weekend. And it’s the beginning of summer.
With all the excitement going on it is easy to forget why we have this weekend.
But the truth is this holiday cost the lives of many people. Memorial Day is a day set aside to pay tribute and honor to those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
Memorial Day was orignally known as Declaration Day because it was a time set aside in 1868 to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating the graves of Union and Confederate soliders.
Over the years the idea inspired others to do the same. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May. The holiday was set aside to honor those who died in all of America’s wars.
Over the past century, more than 35 million men and women answered the call to arms in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Afghanistan and numerous unnamed military engagements.
More than half a million of them never came home. Some died in battle, others in captivity. All died much too soon, but they did so doing their duty and making freedom as part of our country’s future.
As they say, freedom isn’t free and there’s a price to pay. We all know of a person, friend or loved one, who has made the ultimate sacrifice.
There will be ceremonies, celebrations and events in towns all across the country to honor those who died for their country. A small American flag will be placed on each grave in Arlington Cemetery on Monday.
In Lancaster, the 19th annual Memorial Day program will get under way at 3 p.m. Sunday at Lancaster Memorial Park.
“We may not personally know the veteran who rests beneath that bronze grave marker, or in the vaults at Lancaster Memorial Park, or the cemeteries in our communities, but will collectively remember each of them, and our Gold Star mothers with our words, as we have for the past 18 years,” said Ernest H. Stroud, publicity chairman for the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 14.
After the ceremony, attendees and members of the American Legion, DAV, VFW, Marine Corp League, Nations Ford School ROTC cadets and the Ladies Auxiliary will place small American flags on 1,188 graves.
At last year’s ceremony, Stroud quoted former President Ronald Reagan when he said, “Let us hold it our sacred duty and our provilege on this day to decorate the graves ourselves with a fervent prayer and a pledge of true allegiance to the cause of liberty, peace and country for which Americans have ever sacrificed and served.
“Our pledge and our prayer this day are for free men and free women who know all we hold dear must constantly be held up, fostered, revered and guarded visibly for those of every age to see.”
We hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday as they welcome summer. We also encourage everyone to pause, remember and pay tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.