2008-05-22 / Editorial

Honor our heroes this Memorial Day


Each spring on the morning of Memorial Day, Jamestowners young and old gather along Narragansett Avenue for a parade.

Our Memorial Day parade is a festive time. There are many colorful balloons. The kids are thrilled with the cotton candy and exciting floats. The Jamestown Community Band provides the proper parade music. Veterans proudly wear their uniforms. Boys and girls march and there are sirens and firetrucks and antique cars. Everyone waves the American flag.

Some call the annual parade our island's "gateway to the summer."

And so it is.

But our Memorial Day parade has somber side. At the foot of Narragansett Avenue the parade stops at the Veterans Memorial Square. There all is quiet as we honor those men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

The ceremony is simple. There are a few speeches. Guns are fired in salute. Then a lone bugler plays Taps, quite possibly one of the world's saddest melodies.

Memorial Day was originally referred to as Decoration Day. The holiday was created to honor our nation's many Civil War dead.

Memorial Day was first observed in May of 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The Civil War was a terrible time for our nation and many lives were lost on both sides of the conflict.

The Decoration Day observance grew state by state over the years. After World War I, the observance was expanded to include all of those who died in U.S. wars.

It wasn't until 1971 that Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday. The day is legally observed on the last Monday in May. The traditional observance is May 30.

Today, we remember and honor all who have died in our nation's service. For most of us, this Monday is a holiday from work. We will play in the great outdoors. Families and friends will gather for cookouts. A few of us will stop to think that a dear price had been paid for the freedom we enjoy.

American men and women continue to go in harm's way in the service of their country. Right or wrong, our country is this moment fighting battles in far away lands. U.S. soldiers and civilians are dying every day.

Have fun this weekend. But remember that Memorial Day is a time to honor our nation's real heroes.

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