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Honoring those who gave all so we can have all

Each year I have the honor of attending the Memorial Day Ceremony at the National Guard Armory that’s put on by our local veteran associations.

I have been able to meet many of our local veterans at this and the Veteran’s Day Ceremony each year and now call many of them friends.

The ceremonies are generally similar — there is the presenting of the colors, patriotic music and a guest speaker. However, during the Memorial Day Ceremony, veteran Wil St. Amand reads the names of those veterans who passed away over the last 12 months — now mostly from advanced age or illnesses caused by the chemicals they encountered while fighting in Vietnam.

It’s usually more than 100 names and it takes a good while for Mr. St Amand to read each name. Each year, he says the same thing, that reading the names is “an honor but never a privilege.”

A few years ago, I started to wonder how such a solemn occasion turned into our county’s official start to summer, celebrated by many with backyard barbecues and summer sales at retails outlets.

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.

I asked one of my veteran friends if it bothers him that Memorial Day seems to be more about having a day off of work, being allowed to wear white and hot dogs on the grill.

He smiled and shook his head. He said people being able to do those things, like spending time with family and enjoying fellowship with friends, is because of the veterans who fought to protect the liberties and freedoms enjoyed by all United States citizens.

So today, celebrate those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Honor their memory in some way, whether by visiting someone at the Veterans Home or donating to one of the local veteran clubs. Tell your children as they enjoy their hamburgers and hot dogs about the men and women who still today, leave their own families to serve overseas and that real heroes really do exist outside of their comics and video games.

Alyssa Schnugg is Senior Writer at the Oxford Eagle. Email her at alyssa.schnugg@oxfordeagle.com