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Remember the True Meaning Of Memorial Day
By Sen. Chip Pearson
ATLANTA (May 21, 2009) – For many Americans, Memorial Day symbolizes the official start of summer. The day is marked by picnics, cookouts, and weekend trips. But if you ask yourself what is the true meaning of Memorial Day, would you have an answer?
This sacred day of remembrance began as a movement in the 1860’s in various cities and towns across America to honor and remember those who died in service to our country. There is evidence that it began with Southern women’s groups decorating the graves of fallen soldiers during the Civil War. The first official observance fell on May 5, 1868, upon proclamation from General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Flowers were placed upon the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers at Arlington Cemetery.
For years, the tradition carried on as Americans spent one day a year paying tribute to those who gave their lives for the country’s freedom and safety. The memorial did not begin taking on a commercial undertone until 1971, when Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday, causing the three-day weekend to overshadow the day’s true purpose. Since then, its meaning has been diluted amongst the advertisements for vacation packages and blowout sales. The gratitude once felt for those who put their lives on the line for ours was lost to commercialism.
Memorial Day gained resurgence under the Clinton Administration when Congress established the National Moment of Remembrance, designed to encourage national unity on a day intended to remember our nation’s fallen heroes. The idea was born when children touring the Nation’s Capital were asked by the director of the White House Commission on Remembrance what Memorial Day means. They responded, “That’s the day the pool opens.” A Gallup Poll revealed that only 28 percent of Americans know the holiday’s true meaning. The National Moment of Remembrance encourages Americans everywhere to pause at 3:00 p.m. local time to remember the true spirit of Memorial Day. The time 3:00 p.m. was chosen because it is when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday.
This is our time to honor those from the past and the present who willingly dedicate their lives to securing our freedom, fighting for global democracy, and protecting us from terrorism. These brave men and women are willing to pay the ultimate price for the safety of millions of fellow Americans they’ve never met. Here in Georgia, thousands of our fellow citizens have been deployed overseas and countless more are still training for battle. Most recently, 2,000 Georgians deployed to Iraq earlier this month where they will responsible for training and mentoring the Afghan army and National Security Force.
Even if you have no personal connection to the military, at least remember that many of your fellow state citizens are giving their lives to keep you, your family and your country safe. These people could be your neighbors, fellow church members, or local shopkeepers. You may even know their families. The least we can do is spend a few moments giving thanks for their sacrifice.
President Calvin Coolidge once said, “The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten.” We owe a debt of gratitude to those who have sacrificed their lives so that we could live free. We can start paying that debt by remembering the sacrifice of our nation’s heroes. Whether you spend Monday at a parade, picnic, or the pool, I hope that you give just a moment of your time to remember the true meaning of this special holiday.
Sen. Chip Pearson serves as chairman of the Economic Development Committee. He represents the 51st Senate District which includes Dawson, Fannin, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens, and Union counties and portions of Forsyth and White counties. He may be reached at 404.656.9921 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Immediate Release:
May 21, 2009
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