What is Memorial Day?  Is it a day of sales events?  Is it the official start of summer?  Is it time for the annual family bar-b-q?  Well it is all of those things and more.  In days gone by, Memorial Day was called Decoration Day.  It was a day to take fresh flowers and decorate the graves of loved ones, family and fallen service men.  It was a day to remember and a day to teach.  Seniors and veterans explained the history of family and country to the younger generations and provided role models for young people.

The name Memorial Day was established after WWII when it became a federal holiday.  The focus on those who lost their lives defending our nation was extremely important to the nation, and takes on added significance today.  During times of peace, such as the twenty years prior to 9/11, we generally forget the sacrifice that so many men and women have made for our freedoms.  Those who serve remember in silence and let the rest of us go about our daily lives; that is what they fought for after all.  But in times of conflict, when each of us has some direct contact with the pain and loss of friends and family, this focus returns.

I have never been a member of the military, although through out my professional career, I have had the opportunity to help our armed forces by making sure they have the best possible equipment to perform their duty.  I have had the privilege and honor to know many service men and women.  I have found that they are all heroes in some way.  My biggest hero served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during the Korean Conflict.  He was stationed in Okinawa and participated in several missions on board a B-28 bomber.  That man is my father.

Today, he is participating in several Memorial Day events.  Most of these events will be sparsely attended.  He will speak at the grave yard in his home town of Liberty Hill, Texas.  Over the weekend, he oversaw a group of Boy Scouts who put new flags at the graves of every veteran buried there.  Later at the VFW, he will address the veterans of his community.

When he asked me what I was doing for the holiday, I admitted that I would be spending the day with my wife and kids at home.  We have nothing special planned to honor anyone, to recognize anyone, or to celebrate anything other than a day off work.  I could hear his disappointment as he commented “just like everyone else.”

I have been thinking about this article for several days, trying to think of how to honor the heroes I know.  I asked the questions; who are my heroes?  Why are they heroes?  Is there anyone specific to me?  I had answers for all of those.  My heroes ranged from my old high school teachers, to police and firemen, soldiers, sailors, marines and guardsmen.  I remember mentors from every period of my life; people who touched me directly or helped people I know.

My father’s question made me realize that the remembering is what is important.  Even if we do not participate in any official activities, even if we are caught up in the sales and picnics, as long as we remember, we are fulfilling the intent of Memorial Day.  All I can ask each reader to do is remember.  Think of all of the people, alive and dead, who deserve your respect, have earned a place of honor, became a part of your life.

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Martin writes about writing in his weekly column Ramblings from Martin.

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