Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

May 25, 2014

Fireworks and funnel cake a joyous prelude to solemn event

— — Fireworks and funnel cake accentuate the twinkle of lights on the midway. Stuffed animals hang on display at booths, ready to be won by the accurate toss of a ring. Children squeal as they twirl in circles on rides, teens hold hands as they walk the grounds and enjoy a first date at the carnival.

It’s Americana at its finest. Classic Memorial Day holiday and community spirit rolled into one grand event. We should enjoy it as such, and celebrate it in the moment and in memories that will linger through the years.

But as we enjoy the fun and festivities, we should take a moment to remember the deeper meaning of the holiday.

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It used to be a sacred day. Speeches were given to honor fallen soldiers. Parades were held, often ending at local cemeteries. It was a time for the country to stand united in reflection of the many service men and women who gave their lives protecting our freedoms.

From the American Revolution and World War II to Vietnam and our current conflicts in the Middle East, millions of men and woman have taken up the call to duty when our nation asked.

Leaving parents, spouses, children, friends and other loved ones, they bravely go into a war zone, unaware of when they will return home — if ever.

It’s fitting that a holiday would evolve to mark their sacrifices.

Originally Decoration Day, from the practice of decorating soldiers’ graves, the actual beginning of the holiday is sketchy. More than two dozen cities and towns lay claim to being the birthplace of the holiday and there is also proof women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed a holiday May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan, and was first observed May 30 of that year. In the coming decades, the holiday spread throughout the United States.

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“Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of a free and undivided Republic.”

Gen. Logan, May 5, 1868.

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For those whose thoughts on this Memorial Day weekend have been on barbecues, recreation and home-improvement projects, perhaps it is time to take a few minutes to commemorate the real meaning of the holiday.

Visit cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of fallen heroes, take time to view a memorial or renew a pledge to aid the widows, widowers and orphans of our fallen dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.

These brave men and women sacrificed their lives for us. Honoring their memory is a very small way to say thank you.

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We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led;

It seems to signal to the skies      

That blood of heroes never dies ...   

Moina Michael, 1915, inspired by the poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

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Tomorrow, the carnival lights will no longer burn bright across the midway at city park. Families will have eaten their fill of cotton candy and caramel apples. The gleeful laughs of children and screams of teens on thrilling rides will dim until another year passes.

The Cole Chevy Mountain Festival is a joyous prelude to a solemn event whose meaning goes far beyond a red-letter day on the calendar.  

We must remember America’s children who have seen their share of bloodshed during its 238-year history — the American Revolution, War of 1812, Indian Wars, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, War in Afghanistan, Iraq War and other conflicts.

Millions of service personnel have given their lives in these battles. Mothers and fathers lost sons and daughters. Wives lost husbands. Children lost parents.

We can not begin to imagine the thousands of tears cried for each of the military personnel killed or injured during these wars, or ever begin to erase the pain. However, we can do our part to stand strong for America.

We must vow to appreciate the freedoms these men and women fought for valiantly, and not take liberties — gained in part on battlefields seeped in blood — for granted.

We should take the time to say thank you to a veteran, and pause for a moment in prayer and reflection for the many who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Tomorrow we commemorate our true national debt — the debt of gratitude owed by all Americans to our fallen soldiers and veterans who fought for our country, and continue to protect it to this very day.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.

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