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Although the past weekend did not really show it, summer is coming! Birds are singing, plants are blooming, and summer activities are being planned out. The customary unofficial start of summer is Memorial Day.
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To a great deal of people, it means family get-togethers and picnics with the barbeques roaring, but to veterans, their families and those who have lived through wartime, it means something else. Memorial Day is the time to honor those who have given their lives to protect all that we hold dear here in America.
Originally, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day. This came about due to the vast array of decorations, memorials and flowers that families placed on the graves of Civil War soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
This day should not be confused with Veterans Day where we honor those who have served in the military. Decoration Day was first formalized in the small town of Waterloo, N.Y., in early May 1866 by encouraging families to create memorials for the fallen soldiers.
By late May 1868, the day became the first-ever national Decoration Day whereas soldiers from both side of the Civil War could come to the same cemetery to honor their brothers. One hundred years later in 1968, the federal government chose to pass the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which officially declared the last Monday in May Memorial Day.
Tradition may call you to party hard and cook all day, but let us all remember to take a step back and recall those who made that ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives to protect us. Those brave, honorable men and women who fought in World War II are becoming lost to us.
Reach out to them on this Memorial Day. Ask if you may help them remember their fallen brothers and sisters and thank them for their service. These precious memories of those few who are still here among us are being lost to time, and it is our job to preserve it. Remember them, but not just those from the World War II era.
Unfortunately, our country has participated in many wars over the years: Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and numerous other conflicts where our brave military have been sent to aid those less fortunate than us. These battles have had their fair share of fatalities as well.
Aging brings into sharp focus our humanity and can make us not want to face death. Holding these souls in our minds and paying them respect on Memorial Day and acknowledgetheir loss of life can only serve to bolster our resolve to keep going, forge ahead and live a full life.
This Memorial Day, honor those we have lost who fought to preserve our rights, to preserve our ability to protest, those that fought to maintain our independence, our freedom to choose and our right to vote about what matters to us most.
This Memorial Day, visit with families and friends, eat all the wonderfully prepared foods and have a few drinks in moderation, but also here are some ways to remember and honor those fallen few:
• Visit a war memorial. Read the names and have a moment of silence.
• Aid a veteran to visit a cemetery of their fallen brother or sister, so they can pay their respects.
• Attend a Memorial Day event or parade.
• Display the American flag at your home.
• Watch the National Memorial Day Concert.
• Participate in the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, May 30
Christy Recke MS, RN, CWCN currently works as a wound care nurse consultant and lives in Idaho Springs. She has been a nurse for 25 years and holds a master’s degree in Complementary and Integrative Health.
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