The Post-Journal recently ran an opinion submitted by Mike Russell, president of Jamestown's United Veterans Council, lamenting the nation's diminishing observances of Memorial Day.
"Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years," Russell wrote. "Many Americans have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. Most people no longer remember proper flag etiquette for the day. Many have been distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. What was meant to be a solemn, sacred day of remembrance has simply turned into another day off, sales at local stores and a reason to cook out and party."
Memorial Day, viewed through the eyes of veterans like Russell, has ceased to be a day of honor and reverence and become a day of leisure and convenience. That is unfortunate, because Memorial Day has at its very heart the most somber of intentions.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11 and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Memorial Day observances spread as the debt for our nation's forays into international issues was paid with increasing amounts of treasure and blood. Our recent wars may have fewer casualties, but soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan deserve the same respect from their peers as their predecessors in World War I, World War II, in Korea and the Vietnam War.
We recently published a list of locations that includes celebrations in Ashville and Gerry on May 25 and the following communities on Monday, May 26: Falconer, Bemus Point, Jamestown, Mina, Busti, Celoron, Panama, Mayville and Westfield. Take time today, wherever you are, to find a nearby Memorial Day observance. We owe it to those who gave their lives in service to our nation - and to those soldiers' families - to take a few minutes this morning in remembrance and to say a simple, heartfelt thank you.
Let's make the most of this Memorial Day.