Native Writes: Remember the price of freedom

Memorial Day is this coming Monday, a time to honor those who have served our nation and gone on to join the Supreme Command. These are veterans have passed away, not only in combat, but also in civilian life. Veterans Day, Nov. 11, honors everyone who served, living and dead.

Organizers around the nation honor the spring tradition of decorating graves of the fallen and taking time to remember their sacrifices.  The southern tradition of decorating and tending to the graves of loved ones has become traditional here, as well.

Most ceremonies in the Valley take place around 10 a.m. and last about an hour, so there’s still time to pop a top and burn a burger or two.

When Memorial Day’s moment of silence comes around, don’t just observe it because it’s respectful, but because it’s the law. In 2000, Congress passed legislation declaring 3 p.m. local time the National Moment of Remembrance and Barack Obama released a Presidential Proclamation in 2010, asking all Americans to observe the moment.

Historically, Memorial Day has become a time to honor all loved ones who have passed away. Some organizations decorate all graves, no matter how old they are.

Its roots are solidly in the huge losses of the U.S. Civil War, the deadliest conflict in U.S. history and after its conclusion, the country created its first national cemeteries to accommodate all the bodies of fallen soldiers. In the late 1860s, citizens began the tradition of decorating the graves of fallen heroes in their towns and cities.

History also tells us that, in 1865, families, missionaries and soldiers joined forces in Charleston, S.C., to honor more than 250 deceased Union soldiers buried in a Confederate prison camp. The group worked together to properly rebury the bodies, and when their work was done, they came together with community members, school children, social and aid organizations, and more to remember the fallen dead and decorate their new burial sites. It is considered one of the earliest memorial observances in the United States.

Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday was officially declared by Gen. John Alexander Logan on May 1, 1868 and was first observed at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868. The name Memorial Day was first used in 1882 and became the official name in 1967.

In 1968 the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill was passed which standardized the date of Memorial Day to the last Monday in May. This bill took effect on Jan. 1, 1971. This year, Memorial Day is on May 27. It’s considered the unofficial beginning of summer, despite the San Luis Valley weather’s reminders that snow could fall at any time.

Now, more than a century later after the first Decoration Day, Memorial Day seems to have become less about honoring the past and more about taking advantage of a day off.

While decorating graves is a custom of many, its traditions and history seem to have gotten lost in the search of enjoyment that wouldn’t be possible without the sacrifices of those who gave their tomorrows so others can celebrate today.

Each and every year, Memorial Day reminds us that freedom truly just isn’t free. The three-day weekend offers time to pause, reflect and to acknowledge the many who paid with their lives for our freedom. In remembrance of the fallen troops, the final Monday in May marks a time of giving thanks and being grateful. It is a time of remembering the sacrifices of the fallen.

Home of the free because of the brave…