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Tuesday, Sep. 16, 2014
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Memorial Day Heritage ... Pass it along

(Photo)
As the Memorial Day Holiday creeps closer and the mercury finally begins to rise after such a harsh winter, we all begin to lighten up a bit and begin thinking of summer fun. While breaking out the grill and finally hitting the lake, we, oftentimes, fail to take time to remember the intended purpose of the holiday.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginning, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War as a way to show respect for lives lost in military service.

While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it is not important who was the very first, bu more importantly, that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all, and also to be thankful for those who fought valiantly serving our country, many with injuries and horrid memories they were forced to carry throughout their lives, whether they died in service to our country or served and died many years later.

Among my fondest childhood memories are stories told by my late grandfather, including the hardships he was forced to endure as a 17 year old serving in the Pacific Islands in World War II. As sad as many were, they were intriguing and built within me a huge respect and reverence not only for him, but also all men and women who have served this great country. Young men who left for another world, returned as hardened men whose lives and ideals of war would never be the same. This is something, that I recall not only on Memorial Day, but each time I see the flag of this great country fluttering in the wind and every time I feel the hair on my arms raise as the trumpeter sounds "Taps" or the National Anthem is sung.

As I drive by the colorful cemeteries days after leaving flowers upon my own family graves, I fondly recall those memories and the many ways they affected my life. The memories have forged both my attitude and my high degree of respect for those who serve this great country, as well as having great impact on the person I have became and the ideologies I embrace.

It is with great sadness that I see today's youth not remembering these stories or having grandparents who were part of their lives to share the stories that attribute to many American's sense of patriotism and pride in their country. I cringe when I see today's youth have to be told to remove their caps at services where the nation's colors are presented, and get fighting mad when the National Anthem is played and youth fail to put their hand over their heart in reverence to those who have fought and died for them to be just where they are at that time.

The bittersweet memories are also colored with dread; the dread of seeing future Memorial Days when few decorate the graves of those who have gone on, and stop showing the respect that goes with the tradition of decorating graves for the holiday.

As parents, it is our duty to keep these memories alive all year, not just on holidays like Memorial Day. We must let our children know how tryly lucky they are to live in the country so free that freedoms are often taken for granted; to let children know their freedoms come because men and women fought many battles to preserve how we live today.

By not raising a generation of "entitled" children, we can effectively honor the memory of our forefathers. While most of Generation Y will not recall the stories of war veterans in the same way as other generations, teaching children that Memorial Day isn't just a day to drag out the ski boat and head for the lake, we are preserving our heritage and giving our children a glimpse into the past -- something, that they will hopefully along to their children.

So decorate the cemeteries, but while doing so, take a child and let them know just how lucky they are to live in the world they do today. Create a memory and take time to explain just what Memorial Day really is and how important it is that we remember.

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