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Memorial Day far more than just long weekend

A three-day weekend. A benchmark in the Major League Baseball season. The unofficial start of summer. Barbecued ribs.

     Depending on one’s interests, for many of us, the true meaning of Memorial Day has been replaced by any or all of the above. But it is the men and women we should be honoring Monday who helped make all of those things possible.

     Without the sacrifices of the men and women who fought and died to keep this country free throughout its history, any weekend – much less a three-day one – could be vastly different from what we have come to expect, and feel entitled to by reason of our birthplace.

     All who have served in the military are honored annually with Veterans Day in November. Memorial Day, though, is set aside to pay particular tribute to those who have given their lives, the ultimate sacrifice, in defense of the freedoms we so easily enjoy today.

     Local members of the American Legion placed flags Saturday at veterans’ gravesites in cemeteries in Brookhaven and elsewhere in Lincoln County.

     It is a small gesture, but one of great meaning and significance.

     To be sure, not every grave holds a service man or woman who fell in the line of duty, but each was willing to do so if needed. And for that fact, we should all be forever mindful and thankful.

     During a more formal occasion on Monday, former soldiers, family members and friends will gather at 10 a.m. for a wreath-laying before the Lincoln County Veterans Memorial at the government complex.

     On the memorial are inscribed the names of 99 Lincoln County soldiers who died in the line of duty during World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam. Of those, 70 died during World War II, 15 during WWI, eight in Vietnam and six in Korea.

     Memorial Day is certainly a poignant day for descendants and relatives of those whose names are on the memorial. For the rest of the us, the memorial is a solemn reminder of friends and neighbors who gave their all on behalf of Lincoln County and the rest of the nation.

     The origin of Memorial Day dates to the Civil War in 1868 when Union Gen. John Logan designated a day for decorating the graves of fallen Union and Confederate soldiers. Memorial Day was officially designated for the last Monday in May by the National Holiday Act of 1971.

     The federal law set up Memorial Day as part of a three-day weekend, setting the stage for its transition into the unofficial gateway to summertime activities.

     But in our enjoyment of the long holiday weekend, let’s also take time to give thanks Monday for those who paid the highest price for the rights and privileges we as Americans enjoy on this weekend – and every day.