Monday, May 31, 2010

Decoration Day

We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

-George Orwell

May 30, 1868 was declared Decoration Day by the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union Army veterans.

The first observance was held at Arlington National Cemetery. Maj. General John Logan declared that on that day the graves of fallen Union and Confederate soldiers should be decorated with flowers to honor their sacrifices.

By the end of the 19th century, the day had come to be known as Memorial Day. It was only after World War I that the day was expanded to include those that had died in all American wars.

Memorial Day wasn't declared a national holiday by Congress until 1971.

Like many of you, Memorial Day meant the beginning of summer and a cookout with friends and family for most of my life. I was too stupid, naive, shallow and selfish to recognize why the day had been set apart.

Now, I have a much different view.

So tomorrow, I will spend the morning honoring those that have given all. And I will visit the grave of my son and we will decorate it to recognize his service and sacrifice.

But in the afternoon, our family will have a barbecue. And it won't be a time of mourning. Or sadness.

It will be a time of celebration of life that those fallen brave men and women before us would want to be celebrated.

The men and women that died on the battlefield would want us to start summer with a bang.

They were willing to die so that we can enjoy such things.

They wanted to come home and do the same.

All that they would ask is that the nation acknowledge their shared sacrifice to enable us to enjoy such a day.

For fools like me, I wish there was a law requiring each of us to visit and decorate the grave of a fallen soldier on Memorial Day. To understand the cost of freedom. To appreciate why we have what we have.

And then the law should read that at one set hour (like 7 eastern, 6 central, 5 mountain, 4 pacific), we should all sing the National Anthem together in their honor.

And only then, let the rib sucking, steak savoring, hot dog eating, hamburger chewing begin with gusto.

Rest well at Fiddler's Green, you brave souls.

We will meet again in Heaven.

Know that your service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

In fact, it will be decorated with flowers.

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