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    Remembering Our Heroes on Memorial Day

    While our family was stationed in Germany, my husband and I were invited to attend a Memorial Day ceremony at the Lorraine American cemetery in St. Avold, France, where the largest number of American dead from WWII have been laid to rest.

    I will never forget the sight of so many graves, the military and veterans from different countries coming together to honor the fallen, or how local people made a point to thank my uniformed husband for what service members like him had sacrificed so long ago.

    For most Americans, Memorial Day weekend is synonymous with the beginning of summer and brings to mind backyard barbecues or a lazy day at the beach. Others may confuse it with Veterans Day and think it's a day to honor current service members. 

    Let's take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day. 

    lorraine_american_cemetery.jpgLeslie Palmer Cruise Jr., a World War II veteran from Horsham, Pa., salutes the gravesite of Pfc. Richard Vargas during a wreath laying ceremony at Lorraine American Cemetery in France, 2014. Photo credit U.S. Army Flickr

     

    What is Memorial Day?

    Memorial Day is a day to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice—those who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally called Decoration Day from the tradition of decorating graves with flowers and memorials, the day was first observed after the Civil War. During that first national ceremony in 1868, these words were spoken by then Congressman (later President) James Garfield,

    We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.

    memorial_day_arlingtonArlington National Cemetery, Memorial Day Photo credit U.S. Army Flickr 

    It wasn’t until 1971 that Congress established Memorial Day on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day services and parades take place all across the U.S. and even overseas, including the yearly ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in which a small American flag is placed at each grave.

    Arlington National Cemetery

    We have been a nation at war for years now, and we've sadly lost nearly 7,000 service members in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    During this Memorial Day weekend, if you see a family member wearing a gold star signifying they've lost a loved one in military service, please take a moment to thank them for their sacrifice.

    While our words will never be enough, honoring our nation's heroes is something we should all take time to do on Memorial Day. And for the families who have made the ultimate sacrifice, thank you seems inadequate... but we offer you our gratitude and thanks. 

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    Jen McDonald

    Author

    Jen McDonald

    Jen McDonald is the Content Editor for MilitaryByOwner Advertising. She's a longtime writer, the author of the book You Are Not Alone: Encouragement for the Heart of a Military Spouse, the host of the Milspouse Matters podcast, and has been published in several books and numerous national publications. She was a military spouse for nearly 30 years and is the mom of four (including one son in the military). One of her happiest roles now is being a grandmother. She and her newly retired Air Force husband have been stationed all around the world from Europe to the Pacific and won’t count how many houses they’ve lived in because that would be too depressing. Her passion is encouraging young military spouses and regularly sharing about topics like military life, parenting, homeschooling...and now grandparenting! See more from Jen at her site, Jen McDonald and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram , and Pinterest.

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