Many events have been packed into the upcoming weekend — graduations, parties, hang gliders and horse drives. Plus you’ll see folks flock to the lakes and the mountains, eager to mark the start of the summer season with a few outdoor adventures.
I understand that urge to go, to do.
As we head into the weekend and make plans, I hope everyone takes some time to remember WHY we all get an extra day out of the office. It isn’t for parties and boats on the lake. Though, that’s OK to enjoy too.
Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day because the tradition of decorating graves of veterans with flowers, wreaths and flags began early. The day sets aside time to remember those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed in 1868 to commemorate Civil War soldiers.
Now, many of us know that the last Monday in May is Memorial Day, but we do little to honor those who have died in our service. We host picnics and barbecues instead.
I know finding a connection to a cause is important. It’s a given that we all support and love our soldiers for all that they do. (I understand that may be a political statement these days, but I truly feel veterans’ service is appreciated more than not). But, if you don’t have a personal connection to somebody in the armed services, I wonder if it’s more difficult to appreciate and understand their sacrifices.
We can sympathize, but maybe not empathize.
Much of my family — at least the members I know well and communicate with the most — has served. My brother just finished up several years of service with the Wisconsin National Guard. Aunts and uncles of mine have served in the Navy and other branches. Older generations of my family tree also served.
I’m sure many readers have similar service histories in their families.
None of my immediate family members have died in that service. And while I see their sacrifices and understand the pain, dedication and honor, I will never truly empathize with those who have lost loved ones. I cannot truly understand that pain.
I don’t mean to make anyone with fun weekend plans feel guilty. I, too, have made plans to enjoy the long weekend with family and friends. But I hope as you gather around the grill, lake, campsite or backyard, you take just a moment with those around you to look around. Take it all in. Think of all of the freedoms we truly have. Give a quiet thanks to those who make it possible.
And, if you can, help decorate the graves of veterans in Sheridan or attend the Memorial Day parade downtown. Grave decorating will take place Saturday at 1 p.m. and Monday at 6 a.m. The parade starts Monday morning at 9:30 a.m. in the Wells Fargo parking lot.
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter the words, but to live by them.”
— John F. Kennedy