Instead of a day of mourning and sadness, Memorial Day is a day to celebrate life, liberty and freedom, and to remember all of those who have paid the ultimate price to ensure these things.


Instead of a day of mourning and sadness, Memorial Day is a day to celebrate life, liberty and freedom, and to remember all of those who have paid the ultimate price to ensure these things.
Memorial Day might mean a three-day-weekend, BBQs or vacations to some. But to those who have fought or have lost their lives, or a loved one, this day hits home for many, especially within the community, because it is their courage and selflessness that allows Americans to live their lives freely each and every day.
At the Memorial Program held at the CENLA Veterans Cemetery Friday, military veterans, families, state officials, city officials and current military gathered together to honor the men and woman who gave their lives so that the word freedom could be practiced everyday. Formally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day was set aside to celebrate and commemorate the lives of those who died.
The guest speaker, Col. Roger Shuck, the garrison commander at Fort Polk, offered insight to the word "decorate," saying it means pride, dignity, honor and glory and that the decoration that may have saved the army was just a "simple" piece of cloth. In America, Shuck said, those who have paid the last full measure are honored in May becuase, unlike the rest of the world, America did not chose a day that ended a war between great nations, but chose a day that ended a war that was fought between its' own borders, the civil war.
"Memorial Day is a holiday that is uniquely American," he said.
When it was officially observed on May 30, 1868 for first time, Shuck said, it was not the anniversary of a battle or a day to commemorate war, but yet it was a day to celebrate, decorate and commemorate the lives sacrificed in service.
"The simple act of honoring veterans' service and adorning veteran graves with flowers of May, gave birth to Memorial Day," he said.
In America, memorial day is more than just a day to remember the soldiers, he said, it marks the beginnings of summer,  a season filed with life and warmth.
"The American spirit is decorated with optimism," he said.
Optimism is the state of having positive beliefs, and Shuck explained that it has been optimism that has gotten America through seven great wars in the past 100 years.
"We look to the future and we draw in on optimism to find that, in the end, our freedom-the very bedrock of our republic, is worthy of the sacrifces made by those in uniform," he said.
Just like many soldiers who return home to Leesville see the yellow ribbons tied on the trees or American flags blowing in the wind, these decorations are displayed all around the country. When soldiers return home, Shuck said, their lives are decorated with hugs, kisses and handskakes, but others are not as fortunate.
"Others came back in a different manor," he said. "They returned home in a casket, draped with the most honored decoration of all, the American flag."
Giving their service, optimism and lives, Memorial Day is a day to continue their stories, Shuck said, and to remember to decorate their lives with the pride and honor that they had that built this nation on life, liberty and hope.