Memorial Day, a holiday that honors those fallen on the field of battle, falls on May 28 this year. For many civilians, this means a day off, a day to sleep in, a day to barbecue and be with friends. Whether the weather is rainy or the sun shines full force, people are likely to have fun on their special day off.


Memorial Day, a holiday that honors those fallen on the field of battle, falls on May 28 this year. For many civilians, this means a day off, a day to sleep in, a day to barbecue and be with friends. Whether the weather is rainy or the sun shines full force, people are likely to have fun on their special day off.
They spend their evenings watching television, gazing at the sunset, cleaning up. But how frequently do they give a thought to the men and women who fight for our freedom? Letting the dog out or taking a hot bath is more important.
For the men and women of the military, Memorial Day means something completely different.
For them, it is a time to remember their fallen comrades, their near brushes with death, the many heroics not many are aware of, the willingness of these soldiers to put themselves into harm’s way, These soldiers rarely partake in barbeques or have a day off lying in a hammock gazing at a glorious sunset.
Some young soldiers may be homesick; even the older ones miss their families and children — some of which they have not yet seen. This on its own is a tremendous sacrifice, for a father to be absent from his wife’s side as she is in labor; he will miss his baby’s first breath, the cutting of the umbilical cord and holding the soft, fragile bundle of a newly minted infant. It’s an even greater sacrifice, being away from loved ones for a year, when, tragically, the soldier dies in action. Suddenly, his wife is a widow and his child will only know his father through mommy’s stories.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines sacrifice as “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.”
Perhaps this definition needs to be amended.
For soldiers’ families, the ones left behind, are as important as the jobs their soldier spouses are sent to do. Military spouses, after all, have just as important a job: They keep themselves, their families, homes and finances together while their military spouse is gone.
The bigger sacrifice — though missing a child’s birth ranks high on the list — is the fact that every single day, soldiers put themselves in harm’s way. At any moment, they might be killed, either by insurgents who have planted improvised explosive devises or by gunfire or other explosives.
Then they receive a small headstone in a veterans’ cemetery where loved ones come to honor their sacrifice.
Yet they do their duty without complaint.
They signed up to join the Army for various reasons, but like the miniseries “A Band of Brothers,” once they’re in the Army, they form bonds — bonds forged by blood, formed by the impossible decisions they must make; necessarily, they’ll form relationships, as they’ll be together for a year or more — and these ties often last a lifetime.
No one else besides each of those soldiers will ever understand the things they’ve seen and done, all in order to establish freedom and democracy.
The most harrowing sacrifice of all for soldiers is not knowing whether or not he or she is coming home. Hundreds of thousands of men and women have given their lives — the ultimate sacrifice — so that democracy may flourish and America can remain safe. There is no greater gift they could have given to us, and we thank you.
Memorial Day trivia:
• Memorial Day is a federal holiday observed annually in the United States on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War.
• By the 20th century Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died in all wars. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.
•  Freedmen (freed slaves) knew of the Union dead and decided to honor them. Together with teachers and missionaries, blacks in Charleston organized a May Day ceremony covered by the New York Tribune and other national papers.
It came to be called the "First Decoration Day" in the North. Beforehand the freedmen had cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground, building an enclosure and an arch labeled, "Martyrs of the Race Course."
Nearly 10,000 people, mostly freedmen, gathered on May 1 to commemorate the dead. Involved were 3,000 schoolchildren newly enrolled in freedmen's schools, mutual aid societies, Union troops and black ministers and white northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to lay on the burial field.
Today the site is used as Hampton Park.
The war dead may be gone, but they are not forgotten. Daniel Webster said, “Although no sculpted marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record to their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored.”
Bravery is not ephermeral; it lasts forever, like a legacy born of valor and courage. There is no bravery without fear.