With our neighbors in war zones, we remember

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Editorial: May 29, 2011

The issue: Memorial Day
Our view: Even more meaning this year

What are your plans for celebrating Memorial Day? Will you relax, visit friends, have a picnic or take in the Louisville Bats game Monday afternoon? All are enjoyable things to do, but don’t miss the importance of this observance.

Monday is Memorial Day; a day to remember and memorialize those who have fallen in service to this nation. First, we honored our fallen soldiers. Years later, we added fallen law enforcement and firefighters, then other first responders to our thoughts.

This year, our community has more reason than normal to remember America’s fallen. Our friends and neighbors with the 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Knox are deployed to Afghanistan and have had several combat deaths in the last three months. For those families, this Memorial Day has a special and somber meaning.

No one knows for sure when or where Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was originally called, began. Women’s groups in the South began decorating soldiers’ graves before the end of the Civil War.

After the Civil War, many communities around the nation gathered to honor the war dead — both Yankee and Rebel — because it often was unknown whether graves contained Union or Confederate soldiers, or even both. It often was seen as a day of reconciliation, citizens coming together to honor those who gave their all.

On May 30, 1868, the Commander of the Army first directed that flowers be placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Today, military cemeteries all across the nation will have small American flags at each grave marker, placed there by the military or by local patriotic citizens.

Over the years, many of us have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. Some take time to honor any and all dead, not just those fallen in service to our country. And to many it is a day of picnics, games, or just a day off work and school with little regard for the sacrifice of many.

Whatever you have planned, please take a few minutes to think about the central meaning of Memorial Day and say thanks, in your own way, for the sacrifice of those that have fallen in the service of this nation – for us.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.