This editorial was published in Bloomington Pantagraph.
What this weekend will be for too many people is an answer to the call of the open road.
But as we zip around to wherever we’re going, we should remember and mark Monday as Memorial Day, the day we honor those in the armed forces who died serving their country.
The remembrances should be solemn, but they don’t all have to be sad. The ones we honor would no doubt be pleased that their sacrifices have resulted in such joy.
And there’s nothing wrong with celebrating what appears to be a victory over our smallest foe, COVID-19. The sacrifices most of us have made are nothing close to what was made by those we celebrate on Monday. But there have still been sacrifices, and we’re starting to back in what we see the rewards for that work becoming.
Memorial Day first was called Decoration Day and came into being toward the end of the Civil War. Families and friends of the Union dead would gather at cemeteries to decorate the graves of the fallen. The formal name change to Memorial Day came in 1967, although the term had come into favor nearly 80 years before.
Interestingly, the holiday's roots are tied to Central Illinois, because those early formal celebrations were under the auspices of the Grand Army of the Republic.
"... Dr. Benjamin F. Stephenson came from Springfield (to Decatur) to establish the first post of the Grand Army of the Republic, a fraternal organization of soldiers who fought for the Union, in a move that laid the foundation for what is now Memorial Day," wrote Emily Steele in 2014, then a reporter for the Herald & Review.
The GAR oversight gradually faded, and the American Legion took over. In many communities, the holiday celebrations now lie with communities or other fraternal organizations, often with a parade and a speech or two.
Families and friends organize their own backyard parties with cookouts, heavy doses of sun lotion and various types of outdoor games. The family pool is filled, school is out and summer has begun.
On Memorial Day, you'll see flags flying at many cemeteries and from many porch fronts. Families will honor their soldiers, sailors, marines and guardsmen, living and deceased. We all must take time to remember to mourn the dead, comfort the living, and honor the lives lost in pursuit of the greatness of our country.
Enjoy the freedom and bask in the outdoors, and hopefully you end up in places where masks are not required. But take a moment to remember the ones who made sacrifices so you’d be able to do so.