Remember our heroes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Next Monday is Memorial Day. Many families will spend the day at the lake, at the beach, and enjoying the day off of work.

Especially in our part of the country, people will take this opportunity cook mass quantities of meat outside on the grill. Don’t get me wrong, I have never met a baby-back rib that I haven’t fallen in love with and pulled pork is one of my weaknesses, but many people have forgotten the purpose behind this national holiday.

Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a time to remember the memory of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Given the current condition of the world and our country’s involvement in Iraq, this Memorial Day should have added meaning.

Whether you agree with the current administration’s foreign policy or not, the men and women in harm’s way should be supported without fail. Remember, the reason that we are able to celebrate holidays and enjoy the company of friends and family is because the folks in our military.

The first observance of Memorial Day was May 30, 1868 under the proclamation of General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Flowers were laid on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

The first state to officially recognize this special day was New York in 1873. Originally perceived as a &uot;northern&uot; holiday, the southern states refused to recognize the day, instead honoring their dead in a separate holiday.

In addition to Memorial Day, several states still recognize Confederate Memorial Day as an official holiday, including Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi.

The outlook changed after World War I when the holiday was officially changed from honoring just those killed in the Civil War to those killed in any war. In 1971, Congress passed the National Holiday Act ensuring that Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May.

Since the late 1950’s, the soldiers of the 3rd Infantry have placed small American flags on all 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery on the Thursday before the holiday. That must be an awesome sight. That tradition continues today.

In the Roanoke-Chowan area, you can pay your respects to these fallen veterans during ceremonies in Ahoskie or Jackson. Both are scheduled for 11:00 am Monday, so make plans to attend one of these tributes to pay your respects. If you know of any other memorials in the area, please let us know, we want to include it in our calendar.

Enjoy the holiday, enjoy the company of your friends and family, but enjoy it safely. And remember why we celebrate Memorial Day; your day will better because of it.