• Dale Lawrence, USAF Veteran

Memorial Day, An American Legacy, More Than Just A Picnic.

Updated: May 31

I have often wondered why Memorial Day means so much to me. How did I gain such a deep and meaningful appreciation for the gift of freedom? Do you ever wonder if the real meaning of Memorial Day is being replaced with a barbeque and a picnic?

Boy watches parade go by

In my home, my church, my school and community, I was keenly reminded to be grateful. To honor the memory of those who gave the greatest sacrifice for the liberties we enjoy

I remember how important it was to my father that we got just the right spot for our annual Memorial Day celebration. The images are easily recalled: People crowding the sidewalks and covering the porches and steps of homes on the route. Kids waving little flags of The Red, White and Blue. All of a sudden, we began to hear the distant sounds; parade sounds. There were sirens wailing and rigorous cheers. Drums, horns and flutes resonate as the parade neared. One by one they marched: The High School Band, the dancers with batons and polished, red fire engines. There were scouts, civic groups and even clowns. Suddenly, there was a hushed silence as the veterans approached in uniform. With faces set like steel, they conveyed a sacred message; something was to be honored. With great care and respect, they lifted our country’s banner; consecrated and dedicated to the fallen of past generations. It was a ritual taught with a purpose. Values had been shared that gave reason to appreciate our country, our flag, and our proud American heritage. This was our Memorial Day tradition.

Kids waving flags as military members march by in a parade

Those childhood experiences of Memorial Day celebrations in rural, small-town America have never left me. To this day those memories and traditions stay with me, impacting me in such a way as to shape my life, my sense of purpose and to a degree, the person that I am today. I was taught to believe in God, to “treat others as I would have others treat me,” and to love my country. Surely, I was presented with lasting concepts and values from my family and my community.

The Memorial Day tradition began following the Civil War and in the midst of that war, President Abraham Lincoln dedicated the National Cemetery in Gettysburg, PA with these famous words,

“…It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

It is our responsibility to send this message forward, to our children and their children. If we are concerned that the next generation does not seem to “get it,” is it their fault or is it ours?

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