By Corinne Wnek
Memorial Day, the first of three patriotic holidays, is almost upon us. Stores are decked out in red, white and blue, and the hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken wings are flying off shelves everywhere. Potato salad recipes will soon be competing for best in show this weekend along with yummy apple pies and fresh squeezed lemonade.
Things haven’t changed much since Memorial Day was first celebrated in 1868 when it was known as Decoration Day. At that time, the day was set aside to decorate the graves and honor those who were lost in the Civil War. But in 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday and now honors all who lost their lives in any war fighting for our American freedoms. Yes, those same freedoms which continue to be threatened today.
This is what we Americans do best. We resurrect joy and celebrate our birthright of freedom, born from the sacrifice others were willing to make for the greater good of our country. The countless number of unknown lives lost because they were willing to face the enemy for us is staggering. These citizens answered a call when our country was threatened by those hell bent on destroying the privileges and patriotism so imbedded in our national character.
We can only wonder what might be different in the world today if it weren’t for the death of even one soldier. I’m reminded of the classic holiday movie by Frank Capra, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, in which the main character, George Bailey, suffers a disastrous setback in his struggling business. Through despair, he wishes to end his life. But a special angel is assigned to help him and shows George how hard life would be for those he knew and loved, if he never existed.
How many families of fallen soldiers today have wondered that same thought? How would life be different for them if their loved one survived in battle? Despite the heartache that sad reminiscing brings, one thing almost always rouses a smile, of sorts. And that is the response most frequently given by family survivors upon learning that they lost someone in combat. It’s usually something like “he died doing exactly what he wanted to do because he loved his country.” And then they cry for the rest of their lives.
We must remember the sacrifices made for us by these lost heroes whose efforts have kept America free. Memorial Day brings us together in a spirit of patriotism so uniquely celebrated by displaying the flag, reminding us what is at stake even today. Those lost in combat would want us to go on with a happy and positive view of the future. After all, that’s what they stood for.
Gentlemen, start your grills.
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