Saturday, May 21, 2011

Guest Column from Representative Richard Adams: The Importance of Memorial Day

Richard Adams, State Rep. for
Ohio's 79th House District
Pictures of barbeques, picnics and days spent out in the sun come to mind as we think about the day that kicks off the summer months every year: Memorial Day. On this day, we often take part in our favorite summertime activities, getting together with our families and communities to ring in the new season of relaxation and beautiful weather. These are some of my favorite thing to do on Memorial Day as well, but the holiday holds far more significance to me than summer festivities.

The story of Memorial Day begins in the 1860s, when U.S. civilians were looking for a way to honor those lost in the Civil War. In 1868, the first official “Decoration Day” was observed in 27 states, which consisted of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers in community cemeteries in remembrance of their sacrifice made in the Civil War.

Growing from simply decorating graves, Memorial Day has evolved into a federal holiday marked with parades and community celebrations to commemorate all fallen soldiers of U.S. conflicts. We gather as families to have cookouts and picnics, spending time with our loved ones. The spirit of patriotism runs strong in our communities as flags are flown and people wear red, white and blue. One of the most beneficial elements of the day is that it helps to bring our communities together.

However, we cannot let all of the festivities of Memorial Day overshadow the true meaning of the holiday: commemorating the countless men and women who gave their lives so that we can live lives of peace and liberty. The longest-standing traditions of Memorial Day keep our fallen heroes in mind. Decorating the graves of soldiers remains a powerful reminder of the personal sacrifice of each individual soldier, while flying the flag at half-mast shows the country’s solidarity in remembrance. Together, we reflect upon the value of liberty and how blessed we are as Americans, living life in peace and freedom.

This year’s Memorial Day is particularly special—it falls on May 30th, the exact date that the first Decoration Day was held. In light of this, I challenge us all to keep the true meaning of Memorial Day in our hearts and minds as we celebrate with family and friends. With more than 5,000 losses of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq to date, it’s more important than ever that we pay our fallen soldiers due respect. The National Moment of Reflection will take place at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, allowing us to pause and reflect upon their sacrifices, along with the sacrifices of countless other U.S. soldiers. I wish all of you a fine Memorial Day, full of reflection, gratitude and peace.

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