Memorial Day = mixed emotions


Memorial Day weekend produces mixed emotions. The holiday is a time for somber reflection and remembrance of the tens of thousands of men and women who have served in our military over the centuries and have given their lives in our nation’s wars.

It was the Civil War, the most deadly war in U.S. history, that produced the roots of Memorial Day in May, 1968. The Veterans Administration says the head of an organization of Union veterans established Decoration Day as a time the nation could decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. After World War I, the observance was made inclusive to the deaths in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared, by an act of Congress, a national holiday on the last Monday in May.

Across the years and in every state, small American flags were placed on veterans' graves, a tradition that continues.

Emmet County, like other communities across the country, has for many decades marked the day with somber remembrances through an honor guard salute at the city cemeteries and with a patriotic message and honoring of the newly departed veterans, a tradition that is on hold this year, along with the Avenue of Flags, due to COVID-19 precautions. Those who wish to honor departed veterans may do so at a proper social distance as the honor guard moves through the various cemeteries.

Families and loved ones of the fallen, as well as surviving veterans appreciate the day in ways the rest of us probably will not fully understand.

Before and after the solemn processions, many will fire up the grills for barbecues and mark the beginning of tee shirt weather, officially trading snow blowing for lawn mowing, and camping and fire pit weather. It may not be warm enough to swim in our lakes, but the days of summer are fleeting in Emmet County, and it’s important to take full advantage.

While it might seem these activities fail to remember what our veterans defended and sacrificed for, what more fitting way to honor their sacrifice than to enjoy all our freedom has to offer? What did they hope to defend and preserve more than the “pursuit of happiness” written into the Declaration of Independence?

Then get out and enjoy a barbecue, a picnic, and all the beauty our county has to offer. We hope the sun will cooperate.


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