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Commentary | May 22, 2015

Chaplain's Corner: Honor Memorial Day as a true 'holy' day

By Air Force (Maj.) Chaplain Steve Richardson 673d Air Base Wing Chaplain


The "Chaplain's Corner" offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey  endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.

On the last Monday in May at cemeteries across the United States, Americans will observe Memorial Day, a tradition that began three years after the Civil War ended. There will be speeches, patriotic songs, flags, and parades.

Memorial Day evokes strong emotions. It was originally known as Decoration Day, a day to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead with flowers.

After World War I, the day was expanded to honor those who died in all American wars. Then in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday.

The word "holiday" comes from the Old English, "holy day." Memorial Day is truly a holy day.

It is not a day for parties and picnics and celebrations; it is a day for respect and patriotism. It is a day to remember and honor the men and women who died in military service while fighting to defend the cause of freedom.

It is a day to be thankful for the courage and sacrifice of those who never came home.

We enjoy a great deal of freedom in America. We have freedom of worship, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and a host of other freedoms guaranteed in the Bill of Rights and unparalleled in the world.

These freedoms didn't just happen. They exist today because of the courageous men and women who paid with their lives to secure them.

Those are the men and women we honor on Memorial Day. 

For generations, my extended family in West Virginia has gathered at our family cemetery every Memorial Day to decorate the graves of our ancestors with flowers (pronounced "flairs" in West Virginia talk).

There are special flowers reserved for those who died in military service.

I've not been to that mountain cemetery for many years, but I can never allow myself to forget it.

For me it holds the true meaning of Memorial Day: honoring our dead.

Remembering lives cut short. Respecting those who, "more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life!"