EDITORIAL: Memorial Day is for honoring the fallen

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Many of us have had friends and loved ones who have served America in one of the branches of the United States Armed Forces. And we are thankful for their service, and the service of other veterans, to this country.

But as we get ready to celebrate Memorial Day for the 151st time in our nation’s history, Monday is not the day to tell a veteran, “Thank you for your service.”

And it’s not that we are not thankful. The men and women who serve — and have served — our country in the Armed Forces put their lives on the line so that we may have the freedom we enjoy as Americans. They have sacrificed more than most of us know to keep this country strong and free.

However, we honor those who have served our country on Veterans Day, which is Nov. 11 each year.

Memorial Day, which is the final Monday in May each year, is for remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and given their lives in the service of our country.

Many Americans will have the day off work on Monday, which will mean time with family and friends and a chance to engage in recreational activities, like cooking out or traveling somewhere. Others will celebrate Memorial Day as the unofficial kickoff of summer.

And there’s nothing wrong with that — in fact, many of us at the Tribune will be doing just that. But don’t forget what Monday is about.

Cursha Pierce-Lunderman, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, may have said it best two years ago in a column for SheKnows.com.

“Memorial Day is for the memories,” Pierce-Lunderman said. “As some people gear up for their beach weekends and day parties at the start of summer, Arlington Cemetery will be packed and there will be nothing happy about the tears there. Those are the people truly in need of Memorial Day wishes, prayers and good vibes — not me.”

The first Memorial Day was observed on May 30, 1868 — a Saturday — at 183 cemeteries in 27 states. By 1869, that number had increased to 336 cemeteries. In 1871, Michigan became the first state to make Memorial Day (then known as Decoration Day) a holiday.

While the name “Memorial Day” was first used in 1882, it did not become the common name for the holiday until after World War II. Memorial Day became the official name of the holiday by federal law in 1967, and the Uniform Monday Holiday Act the following year moved the holiday from May 30 to the final Monday in May.

On Monday, the American flag will fly at half-staff until noon, then be raised to full-staff.  This represents the conscious act by the living to raise the memory of those who died in service to our country, while at the same time committing us to not let their sacrifices be in vain.

There will also be several local events honoring those who have given their lives in service to our country. The American Legion Riders will have their 6th Annual Memorial Day Run on Saturday at 9 a.m., with the route running from Powell, Byron, Lovell, Greybull, Basin, Burlington and Cody before returning to Powell.

The American Legion also will have its annual Avenue of Flags at Crown Hill Cemetery. The Memorial Day ceremony will kick off at 10 a.m. Monday at the cemetery and will be preceded by a breakfast at Post 26 from 7:30-8 a.m. The flags will be put out on Sunday morning, stood up at 6 a.m. on Monday and will be taken down at 6 p.m. that evening.

No matter how you celebrate Memorial Day, take some time to remember those who gave their lives fighting for our country. They’re the reason we have the freedom we do as Americans.

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