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May 25, 2014

Memorial Day deserves respect

DUNCAN — Stop. Before you finish preparing or enjoying that family breakfast, before you complete reading The Banner, before you get ready for church, before you share a bountiful lunch, before you pack the kids in the car for an afternoon excursion, before you take that well deserved nap, before you tee up that first shot, before you leave town to visit friends or before you fire up the grill, take just a few minutes to think about the real meaning behind this three-day holiday weekend.

Yes, it provides you time with the family. Yes, it allows the opportunity for fun and relaxation. Yes, it offers you a break from the tension of work. Yes, it slows the pace. And yes, it unofficially signals the beginning of the summer season, the opening of swimming pools and the time our youngsters have away from school.

But it should also encourage you to pause for a sincere and genuine thank you.

The true purpose of Memorial Day is to remember and honor those men and women who have died while serving our nation, whose actions and sacrifices have created and maintained the freedom, privileges, opportunities and security we so easily take for granted.

While several communities lay claim to its birth, there appears no conflict with regard to its intent. Family members and support groups placed flowers on the graves of their fallen servants in a practice originally called Decoration Day, dating back to the 1860s as a way of honoring Civil War soldiers of both the Union and Confederate armies.

It was officially proclaimed Memorial Day in May 1868, extended to include those who died in World War I and now includes those who have died in all wars since.

As a child whose only uncle died in World War II, I remember vividly the long car rides each year to a rural, country church cemetery to visit with relatives, share a dinner-on-the-grounds meal, listen to patriotic music and place flowers on his grave in a celebration still known to them as Decoration Day.

And I recall the tradition of buying and wearing small red artificial poppies, made as I remember by disabled veterans, on our shirts as a way of not only recognizing the fallen, but helping support causes that benefited veterans of those wars.

It was a different era, I suppose.

Memorial Day wasn’t then a marketing ploy for businesses to lure you into their stores. It was a day draped in honor and respect, a solemn occasion filled with meaning and appreciation.

And I worry that it, like other traditions that used to mean much, is fleeting, vanishing even, as a neglected victim of busy schedules, of ignorance, of apathy and of generations not fully aware of how personal those previous sacrifices have been.

There is no attempt here today to launch a crusade.

Though I ache for a renewed sense of patriotism among us all, I simply wanted to remind you it’s a remarkably special weekend, honoring remarkably special people in a remarkably special country for a remarkably special reason.

I wanted to encourage you to fly your American flag, of which I’m pleased to say there are many in Duncan, America, at half-staff until noon Monday in their honor, then raise it and their memory to full staff for the remainder of the day.

And I wanted to ask you to stop whatever you’re doing at 3 p.m. to share in the observance of a national moment of remembrance, visualizing perhaps the striking beauty of 260,000 small American flags at each of the gravestones on the rolling hills of Arlington National Cemetery.

Call me old-fashioned, if you will. Label me a dinosaur. Suggest I’m silly and perhaps out of step with reality. Tell me I’m corny.

But we owe it, I think, to ourselves and our children to preserve and protect memories and commitments of our past and to share legacies still full of meaning and importance.

Respecting Memorial Day is akin to standing erect at the sounds of our national anthem and to covering your heart as we pledge allegiance to the flag of our country.

 It is a day still draped in honor and steeped in history. It is a day that deserves our attention and merits our respect.

                                                                                                 edarling@duncanbanner.com                                                                                                       (580) 255-5354, Ext. 130

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