The premise behind Memorial Day -- honoring those who have given their lives so that we can live in freedom -- should be far from a one-weekend commitment. Personally, a day does not go by without my thinking about the courage that our military personnel have and continue to display.
The nature of the holiday is to gather with family and friends for a welcome-to-summer barbecue. It's a terrific tradition, one that has been a favorite throughout my lifetime. I remember vividly meeting my Little League teammates to walk down a mile or two down the avenue with the whole town lining the route. Go ahead, attend those festive parades, enjoy that burger and relish your relationships.
But nobody should lose sight of what Memorial Day truly means.
In the last year, I have visited Gettysbury and shivered with the words of Abraham Lincoln's address ringing in my head as I stood in the very place where he spoke one of history's greatest pieces of rhetoric. Please read what he said, think of the sacrifices made by gallant young men on both sides of the battle line and try to absorb the meaning.
I also visited Yorktown, Va. How many of you remember its significance from your grade-school days? On a field in Yorktown, General George Washington accepted the surrender of the British to sanction the birth of the greatest nation Earth has even known.
Soon, I will be headed for Antietam in Maryland. It's many miles from any beach or ballpark. I don't expect to attend any carnivals or swill cocktails at a pub. I will stand at Burnside's Bridge and reflect on the 23,000 men who were killed or wounded there in the Civil War. I will walk those hallowed grounds and recall the description noting that you could walk for a mile without touching the ground because of all the dead bodies left behind.
I will go to Harper's Ferry, WV, where a man named John Brown and his five sons gave their lives in an ill-fated plan to eradicate slavery. When the Torrington native was hanged on Dec. 2, 1859, he said, "I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood." Was he a terrorist or freedom fighter?" Some questions history will never be able to answer.
Thus, I have two extra Memorial Days on my agenda. I will shed some tears. I will feel that familiar shiver tingle through my chest.
So many have died in so many wars fought to preserve our way of life. Baby boomers like me are fortunate that our parents' generation made the sacrifices that World War II demanded so that some goose-stepping control freaks and power-mad lunatics wouldn't be controlling our destiny. Similar sacrifices were made since by the brave souls who endured the bitter cold of Korean battlefields, the thick jungles rife with instruments of torture in Vietnam and the brutal conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Let's not forget them, please.