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  • Writer's pictureTommy Zurhellen

Remembering our Heroes

Thursday, May 25th

Dear Friends:

If you’re reading this, you’re probably making plans for another Memorial Day weekend filled with family and fun. However, most of our veterans really don’t enjoy seeing “Happy Memorial Day!” on countless billboards and advertisements in anticipation of this upcoming weekend.

If you think about it, Memorial Day was never meant to be happy at all.

Memorial Day is an opportunity to remember the heroes who have gone before us, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Over the years, it’s been reduced to a chance to score merchandise on sale, or an empty excuse to hit the beach with friends and family. For many Americans, Memorial Day has sadly become just another day off.

Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday started in 1868 to commemorate those who perished in the Civil War; Memorial Day wasn’t an official holiday in America until 1971. Since then, it’s lost much of its original meaning and now has become the unofficial start to summer fun, with Memorial Day sales, barbecues, and parades.

Growing up, I didn’t understand why my grandfather would always make a point to bring all the kids over to the cemetery before we could dig into the food and fun of our family picnic each Memorial Day. We brought gardening tools to clean up all the gravestones in the family plot, and we replaced the flags on the graves of folks like Uncle Billy, who died in Korea, and Uncle Larry, who was a Merchant Marine sailor in World War II.

My grandfather served as a Marine in World War II and fought in some of the worst battles in the Pacific Theater, including Iwo Jima, but he never talked about it. Now that I’m older, I see why grandpa always insisted we spend time at the cemetery before any Memorial Day celebration commenced. He taught us the real meaning of Memorial Day. And that’s the reason I still visit the same cemetery to this day with my dad and cousins. My grandfather is buried there now. Someday I might be buried there, too.

At your local VFW and American Legion posts, you’ll find the spirit of Memorial Day is a lot different for the veterans there. It’s not a celebration. It’s a chance to reflect on the fallen comrades they have lost. You’ll see local veterans at your local cemetery all weekend, replacing flags and saluting the heroes who have gone before them. That’s the real Memorial Day.

This year, let’s all pledge to put some of the “memorial” back into Memorial Day. It’s especially important for our young folks who may not even realize the true meaning behind the holiday. Spending an hour or two at your local cemetery replacing flags on the graves of veterans with the VFW or American Legion is a great family activity, and it can teach kids so much about our history, and our duty as American citizens. I wish your family a blessed and reflective Memorial Day weekend.

Thanks for listening! See you next time.

Respectfully, Tommy


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