I grew up in central Indiana. It was a place and time when folks knew their neighbors and doors were left unlocked. As a child, I remember Memorial Day as a time for cookouts, trips to the lake, and listening to the Indianapolis 500 on the radio. Magical names like Parnelli Jones, Roger Ward, and A.J. Foyt filled the airways. Eventually, I attended “The” race, and when I was old enough — the snake pit. Someday I might share a few of those stories, but not today.
Throughout this time in my life, there was an underlying theme of shared community. Regardless of the day’s events, Memorial Day was also a time to remember and cherish those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom. Have we lost this? Has Memorial Day become just another 3-day weekend? Have we forgotten why we celebrate this day?
Why We Celebrate the Day
After the civil war, there was a need and an almost spontaneous movement to honor the fallen soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Women in the south and families in the north began placing flowers and decorations on the graves of those who had perished.
General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially declared May 30, 1868 as Memorial Day, "Designated for the purpose of strewing flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit."
Who We Honor
The Veterans of Foreign Wars had this to say, "Do most non-veterans really recognize the importance of the day honoring their fellow Americans killed in war? Judging from what Memorial Day has become — simply another day off from work — the answer is a resounding no. Perhaps a reminder is due, then. And it is the duty of each and every veteran to relay the message.”
Means of paying tribute vary. Attending commemorative ceremonies is the most visible way of demonstrating remembrance: Placing flags at gravesites, marching in parades, sponsoring patriotic programs, dedicating memorials and wearing Buddy Poppies are examples, and what about active service people? Why not honor active duty soldiers as well?
Take a Moment Out of Your Weekend
While you're enjoying this weekend, whether at the track, cookout, or the park, take a moment to remember those who have made it possible for this weekend to be enjoyed. The men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to serve and protect. I'll leave you with this final thought from the VFW. "Pausing for a few moments of personal silence is available to everyone."
Randy Clark is the Director of Communications at TKO Graphix, where he blogs for TKO Graphix Brandwire. Randy is passionate about social media, leadership development, and flower gardening. He’s the proud father of two educators; he has four amazing grandchildren, and a wife who dedicates her time to helping others. Randy is the author of How to Stay Ahead of Your Business Blog Forever and The New Manager’s Workbook: A Crash Course in Effective Management.