Remembering The Reason For Memorial Day

David J. Valesky

May 16, 2008

These days, many people often refer to Memorial Day as the unofficial start of summer -- and we hear it mentioned in passing as the beginning of the summer travel season, or barbecue season, or some other season. But, all of us should take a moment to remember that it is so much more.

As this Memorial Day arrives, it is important for us to take a moment to collectively recall and honor the men and women who, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, "gave their last full measure of devotion" to our country.

As part of this memory, communities will be coming together all over Central New York and across this great land for gatherings, parades and solemn tributes to the sacrifices that make our everyday freedom possible. Gatherings will occur in Oneida, Canastota, Sylvan Beach, Fabius, Manlius, Minoa, Fayetteville, Jamesville, East Syracuse, and Auburn, just to name a few.

As you plan your weekend, preparing for a family party or a picnic, make sure you make time to attend your community gathering. And also make time to talk to your kids, your friends or your neighbors about the importance of this day, and the memory of the great Americans who we have a duty to remember.

Also remember that, as we recall a long history of heroes, there are young men and women today who are serving our country in Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations around the world, on guard or actively engaged in battle. These men and women are our nation’s sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, friends and neighbors.

They, and the many who fought before them, are standing up for our country and our way of life -- for all of us as Americans. To be an American means to be free, to be free like no other people in history. Free to live how we desire, to say what we think, and to vote for whom we chose. Unfortunately, we too often take even these basic freedoms for granted.

Remember that it took great sacrifice to achieve our freedom, determination to strengthen it and devotion to maintain it. The people we think of and remember on Memorial Day knew this. And when each of them "gave their last full measure of devotion," they gave to each of us our freedom – to protect, to preserve and to honor.

So, as you gather this Memorial Day weekend, and celebrate the start of summer, remember that because of the men and women who fought and died for this nation -- to create it, to preserve it and to protect it -- we are able to share this time with our families, our friends and our communities, with solemn hearts and with joy as we celebrate our freedom.