It’s not too much to ask.
Carving out a few minutes – or longer – to remember what Memorial Day is about is the least you can do as you enjoy your long weekend (if you’re lucky enough to get one).
Because while this weekend is sold as the kickoff to summer, or a great time to get a deal on anything from a new car to a mattress, Memorial Day is much more than that. It’s a day to remember those who gave all they had for the country they loved.
Memorial Day was first officially observed May 30, 1868, to honor the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who died during the Civil War. The holiday has since evolved to observe all U.S. servicemen and women who have died while in military service.
It’s hard to find an exact number of how many U.S. military personnel have died during the many conflicts this country has fought in – even with the Internet, the numbers varied – but a fact sheet from the U.S. Veterans Administration showed that prior to 2001, about 1.19 million had died in battle, in theatre or while in service. You can add another 2,319 from Operation Enduring Freedom, according to the Associated Press database, but that doesn’t include those who have died while in service, but not on the battlefield.
We don’t have to stretch our memories to recall the last local resident who died while providing military service from our area: Sadly, it was last week, when Marine Lance Cpl. Steven Hancock of Coal City died during a training exercise in North Carolina. He was described by those who knew him as an amazing person, a follower of Christ who was devoted to helping others.
He did what all who put on a military uniform do – selflessly gave of himself. Because that is what military men and women do: They put their lives on the line – whether it’s patrolling a border, assisting during a natural disaster or picking up a gun and going to war – because they believe in helping others.
And they do this for us, to ensure our freedom remains intact.
Today is a day to remember those who paid the ultimate price for their service. Those who have lost a loved one they called father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister or friend due to military service likely don’t need a day on the calendar to remember.
Those of us lucky enough to never know such a burden owe those who gave their lives to our country a moment of reflection and thanks for being willing to sacrifice all they had, because they believed in something bigger than themselves.
We honor your sacrifice. And we remember.