The Memorial Day holiday approaches this year as it has every year since the end of the Civil War. In our media, the tourist industry eagerly touts it as the “unofficial beginning of summer.”
Indeed, Tennessee’s weather usually makes the long-planned family picnics and outings to resorts balmy, if not hot. Warm weather makes a great reason to visit the lake, take in a ball game, or some other favorite relaxation. Alternatively, it is good excuse to invite family and friends over for backyard barbecue parties or some other festivity.
This spot on the calendar is also convenient to celebrate high school or college graduations. Perhaps, some of us use the holiday as an extra day in vacation plans. All of this has become a happy part of the American culture.
Generally, on Memorial Day, Americans delight in the cultural blessings of “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Unfortunately, in our zeal to enjoy the day, too many of us easily forget the meaning behind the name of the holiday. It has not always been so.
In my youth, elder family members marked Memorial Days recalling still-vivid memories of relatives who returned from World War II and Korea in coffins. Moreover, the war in Vietnam was adding some of my friends and former schoolmates to the total to be remembered on this holiday.
To be sure, it was still a day to celebrate being off work or school. There were still family picnics, ballgames, barbecues, and trips to the lake with all of the fun.
However, these events of fun with friends and family usually began after something else. There was customarily a brief, early trip to the cemetery or mid-morning attendance at a ceremony at the courthouse square war memorial.
These brief beginnings to the holiday helped instill in the whole family the real meaning of Memorial Day. That sober meaning did not diminish any of the fun and frivolity of the rest of the holiday. To the contrary, knowing the sacrifices made for our freedom to celebrate seemed make us appreciate our blessings even more.
To underscore appreciating those blessings, I encourage everyone to stop for just a moment this Memorial Day and remember. Remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice that we may continue to enjoy our divine endowments of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Happy Memorial Day and “may the heav’n rescued land praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.”
John Ragan is a state representative.