Monday Vitamins: Remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice

A colleague, who is the mother of a combat veteran (eight words that hold more than I can ever express), has shared the following content with us, her co-workers, for several years. I wanted to share this deeply moving article with you in honor of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

I hope you enjoy the time away from work this Memorial Day. I hope you get to spend time with your families, take advantage of great sales, and get some much needed rest.

I hope, too, that you will take a moment to remember why this holiday exists — to honor those who died in service to our nation. Here are some Memorial Day facts:

More than a million service members have died in the wars and conflicts this nation has fought since the first colonial soldiers took up arms to fight for independence. Each person who died during those conflicts was a loved one cherished by family and friends. Each was a loss to the community and the nation.

The observance of this day was born of compassion and empathy in 1863. As the Civil War raged, grieving mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, and other loved ones were cleaning Confederate soldiers’ graves in Columbus, Mississippi, placing flowers on them. They noticed nearby the Union soldiers’ graves — dusty and overgrown with weeds. Grieving for their own fallen, the Confederate women understood that the dead Union soldiers buried nearby were the cherished loved ones of families and communities far away. They cleared the tangled brush and mud from those graves as well as their own soldiers’ graves and laid flowers on them, too.

Soon the tradition of a “Decoration Day” for the graves of fallen soldiers spread. On May 5, 1866, when the Civil War was over, Henry Welles of Waterloo, New York, closed his drugstore and suggested that all other shops in town also close up for a day to honor all soldiers killed in the Civil War, Union and Confederate alike. It was a gesture of healing and reconciliation in a land ripped apart by conflict.

Sixteen years later in 1882, the nation observed its first official Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember and honor the sacrifice of those who have died in all our nation’s wars.

For decades, Memorial Day was a day in our nation when stores closed and communities gathered together for a day of parades and other celebrations with a patriotic theme. Memorial Day meant ceremonies at cemeteries around the country, speeches honoring those who gave their lives, the laying of wreaths, the playing of Taps.

It seems that now, however, young children are unaware what Memorial Day means unless it’s “the day the pool opens.” For many of us, Memorial Day has come to mean simply a three-day weekend or a major shopping day. Families might still gather for picnics, but for many of them, the spirit of remembrance is absent.

Please take a moment this Memorial Day to remember all of our countrymen and women who have died protecting our cherished ideals and values.

I’m including a link as we remember the reason behind Memorial Day.


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