Opinion: The meaning of Memorial Day

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Commentary by Rick Baum

Memorial Day’s history reminds us that our cherished freedoms are not free. Our nation’s flag flies as a reminder of the last breath of each military member who died protecting us. Someone once said, “They gave their tomorrows for our todays.”

First known as “Decoration Day,” General John A. Logan signed a nationwide proclamation to recognize May 30, 1868, as a time to remember those who died in the Civil War.

Volunteers decorated the graves at Arlington for approximately 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers. The soul of America during that era was deeply connected to the military as the magnitude of war casualties touched multitudes of surviving family, friends and comrades.

The Civil War’s battlefields brought the establishment of national cemeteries. Today’s veterans possess the right to be buried on these sacred grounds purposely established throughout the U.S. on behalf of a grateful nation, honoring those who served.

Memorial Day stands as a federal holiday on the fourth Monday of May. Veteran organizations preserve the distinctiveness of Memorial Day by conducting ceremonies, speeches and tributes in memory of those military personnel who died while serving our nation.

Each year, the Zionsville American Legion conducts ceremonies at local cemeteries with a memorial reading, rifle salute and the sounding of taps. Volunteers place flags on local veterans’ graves as a statement that, “You are remembered.”

The next time you attend a Memorial Day family function, sale, picnic or veteran event, remember “Freedom is not free.” Keep in mind the countless veteran grave stones placed throughout America. They stand as a testimony of the sacrificial values, honor and commitment that our nation is the greatest bulwark for freedom in the world. We should honor their legacy.

Rick Baum is a Vietnam-era Marine veteran who serves as Zionsville American Legion Post 79 chaplain and service officer. For more information on the post, visit post79zionsville.com, email post79@att.net, call  317-873-3105 or search for Zionsville American Legion on Facebook.


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