Feature Writer Ann Chiapetta – Memorial Day

The last Monday of May commemorates Memorial Day, the time to gather ourselves and remember the sacrifices made by our Nation’s soldiers who died protecting our country.

Memorial Day has always been a reflective and poignant holiday for me; my father served in Korea, my uncles and cousins in World War II, Vietnam, and my husband in the assorted international conflicts in the Middle East during the 1980s and1990s. Now that I work for the VA, I hear the firsthand accounts of the demands and sacrifices our men and women in the armed forces make for us each and every day.

Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Eric K. Shinsekby sent out an inspiring message of commemoration. It states, in part, “Memorial Day is set aside to honor the more than one million of our fellow citizens who have fallen in battle since the founding of our Republic. On Memorial Day, their service in uniform stands in contrast to our ball games and backyard barbeques. Our defenders are ordinary Americans performing extraordinary deeds, bearing all the risks for our way of life. In remembering the Fallen, we honor the men and women who kept faith with our enduring principles of “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” We remember, as well, those who keep the faith today and honor their patriotism, valor, dedication, and loyalty.”

Originally called Decoration Day, the actual day set aside to fly flags at half-mast, participate in parades, and enjoy the launch of the summer season was May 30th. It was referred to as Decoration Day because it was chosen as the best time by many families to brush off the ides of winter and decorate the soldiers’ graves. Memorial Day was officially declared a National Holiday by President Lyndon Johnson on May 1966 at Arlington National Cemetery. A memorial written by Civil War era orator, Robert Green Ingersoll, eloquently captures the significance of Memorial Day for all generations of our Fallen:

“They died for liberty – they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless … Earth may run red with other wars, but they are at peace. In the midst of battles, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.”

Below is a link with additional information about the history behind Memorial Day. http://www.usmemorialday.org/backgrnd.html

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