Memorial Day: it's more than a long weekend

Memorial Day is a national holiday to honor those who died while serving in the armed forces. While people have been honoring their dead and decorating their graves for a very long time, the practice really took root in America during the Civil War. I don't think the original concept is adhered to as much these days, with people around here putting flowers on any family or friend grave, whether veteran or not. None of my immediate relatives died in a war, so for most of my life it's not been something I've given a lot of thought to.

I can remember going to the cemetery with my grandmother and helping her put fresh-cut flowers on the graves of relatives I had never heard of. I'd follow her around, carrying buckets of iris, peonies, lilac, and whatever else might be in bloom at the right time. It seemed like I was the last one to go with her. She's been gone many years now, and I seriously doubt I could find those graves, let alone recognize the names now - and I don't think anyone else in the family could, either.

When my son joined the National Guard and served for more than 6 years, and it made me a little more cognizant of the concept. Veteran's issues deserve more attention and veterans, alive and dead, certainly should get more respect and consideration than they do - especially those who died during service.

These days, you may notice a lot of plastic and silk flower arrangements in the grocery store, but not a lot of people take the time to decorate graves like they used to. The mostly-fake flowers start appearing a week or two before the holiday, and I think it's likely people are getting their decoration done before they take the long weekend off to visit family or friends, or to take their newly-liberated kids on holiday. The cemeteries in our area have a time limit on when decorations can be placed, and when they must be removed or be thrown away.

But Veterans don't just serve for a few weeks before the flowers wilt or the colors fade.

It's wonderful to have a long weekend, especially now that the weather is getting nice. But I hope you will all join me in taking time this weekend to think about the sacrifices made by our service people (and their families), and if you see a Vet, take a minute to thank them for their service. Those who have died can no longer hear your words, but maybe they can feel your gratitude.

Do you decorate graves of relatives or veterans? How strict to you adhere to the "died while serving"?

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