Take time this busy weekend to remember

WE SHOULD THANK THEM every day, but three specific days each year are set aside to honor those who serve, or have served, in the Armed Forces defending our nation and our freedom.

The first of these came last weekend, Armed Forces Day, which is celebrated the third Saturday of May and recognizes all branches of the military and the men and women actively serving in them.

The last comes in November, on Nov. 11, when Veterans Day salutes all those who have served in any branch of the Armed Forces.

And Monday we will mark the third – which is also the one with the longest history – Memorial Day, a remembrance of all those who made the ultimate sacrifice and died while serving in the Armed Forces.

Memorial Day began in the dark years following the Civil War, a day when the graves of those who fell in America’s bloodiest war – the war that reaffirmed that this nation would endure as one – were decorated to memorialize and commemorate the dead.

It was originally celebrated on May 31 every year, but beginning in 1971 it was switched to the final Monday in May to create an annual three-day weekend.

Some may say that the creation of a three-day weekend for Memorial Day took away from the meaning and significance of the holiday, but judging by the number of ceremonies, parades, commemorations and other events that are scheduled in Sheboygan County and across the nation for the holiday weekend, it doesn’t seem to have diminished in meaning.

However, Memorial Day is only as meaningful and significant as we make it, each and every one of us.

Certainly, there is plenty to do and lots of places to go on a three-day holiday weekend that marks the unofficial beginning of summer.

But it takes only an hour or two out of a busy weekend schedule to attend a parade or a memorial ceremony – or both – during the three-day weekend and less than that to fly a flag on the holiday.

We can and will continue to disagree about many things. We can and will continue to express our bumper-sticker sentiments on either side of the political fence. We can and will continue to have our differences of opinions and beliefs.

But we should all agree to give thanks and honor to all of those who gave their lives to ensure that this nation continues to be strong, free and independent, with a place and voice for everyone, who paid the ultimate price that we all may continue to enjoy the freedom to differ and yet still come together when the cause and reason is right.

From the Revolutionary War to today’s Global War on Terrorism, the number of Americans who have died in combat totals nearly 850,000. That number is large enough that it would make the 12th-largest city in the United States. And the total number of military deaths, combat and non-combat, in all of our wars and conflicts is more than 1.3 million – enough to make up the ninth-largest city in the United States.

Those numbers constitute a huge debt that all of us who enjoy life in the United States, and the freedoms that includes, owe to those men and women.

Wednesday’s Review included a complete listing of Memorial Day activities and events scheduled throughout the weekend and from one end of the county to the other.

Taking an hour or two one day this weekend to participate in Memorial Day ceremonies, to give thanks and to honor, seems like so little to ask in comparison.

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