A day to remember | AspenTimes.com

A day to remember

Paul E. Anna
Aspen, CO Colorado

It may be the best holiday of the year.

For those who love summer, and all that goes with it, the upcoming three-day weekend is the holiday they look forward to the most. Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, is our unofficial kickoff to the season in the sun that lasts, also unofficially, until Labor Day, the first Monday in September.

While they will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Washington, and the editorial pages of the Monday papers will note the sacrifice of those who have paid the ultimate price to protect our country in all the wars that have come before, most of us will simply sleep in a little later, perhaps light the barbecue and make plans for summer fun on our free day.

And there is nothing wrong with that. After all, the good life in America is part of our heritage. Likely there is not a single soldier out there, standing sentinel in the world today, who would begrudge us for taking Monday to look forward in anticipation to summer fun.

But that is precisely the reason why, on this summer Monday, we should all stop for a moment to consider the men and women who have served our country, many making unthinkable sacrifices, to insure that our way of life can go on.

Memorial Day was originally observed in 1868 when flowers were placed at Arlington National Cemetery on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War. Since then our national observances have been spotty at best. The day has become little more than a holiday, with the greater goal of honoring our past just a hazy afterthought.

But we are once again engaged in a war that nearly every day sends young American men and women back to their hometowns in body bags. It can be so easy to put that trauma out of our minds if we are not personally affected. Even if we are politically engaged, we mostly think of the war in terms of the politics or in abstracts that have little to do with the grim reality in order to protect ourselves from having to consider the sacrifices that are made on our behalf.

This is not to suggest that you martyr away your Memorial Day by dwelling in pity for troops who have died in the past. It doesn’t mean that you should put a flag pin on your lapel for a day of public posturing.

It just means that we all should stop for a moment and consider not only those who have died in previous wars in defense of our country, but also, and perhaps even more importantly, those who continue to give selflessly today on our behalf. Their contribution in blood is not on behalf of the misguided leaders who put them in harm’s way. Rather, it is for a way of life that we all think is precious, the American way of life.

It’s Memorial Day weekend. Summer is coming. Let’s have fun. But let’s also take a private moment to honor our men and women in arms with a thought of gratitude.

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