2017-05-25 / Opinion

Offering Thanks on Memorial Day


Flagging at Fort Adams. (File photo) Flagging at Fort Adams. (File photo) Flags are flying, bunting is being hung. With the mention of Memorial Day, many think of planting flowers, getting ready for the summer season, and, back in the day, ladies knowing it is acceptable to wear white shoes once again.

In a broad sense, it is a weekend when many families make an annual trek to cemeteries and gravesites to leave flowers and remembrances for departed loved ones. This pilgrimage often took on the name of Decoration Day.

However, it is actually a day to recognize those in the armed services who died while on active duty.

Memorial Day was first widely observed in May 1868 as a commemoration of the sacrifices during the Civil War. At a proclamation reading, participants decorated graves of more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers.

Since World War I, the day has become a time to honor those who died in all of America’s wars, as well as veterans and current members of the U.S. military. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday, to be celebrated on the last Monday of May.

At Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, one of the nation’s most well-known landmarks, there will be a full day of commemorative activities. Arlington, which dates back to the 1860s, is the final resting spot of more than 400,000 people from the United States and 11 other countries. More than four million people annually visit the cemetery.

A newer and extremely powerful commemoration is Operation Stand Down’s “Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial” at Roger Williams Park’s Temple to Music. The display of 7,000 boots and name placards represents lives lost since Sept. 11, 2001 in the fight for freedom. Read about the noble efforts of this organization to help our state’s veterans on page 1.

To honor the day, many American flags will fly at half-staff until noon. Some who will be home on Monday, May 29, may engage in a moment of silence during the National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m.

Closer to home, consider visiting Miantonomi Tower and Memorial Park. The park site was dedicated as a war memorial on Armistice Day in 1923. It will be open Monday from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. A climb to the top of the tower offers the best view from the island. You could also visit Fort Adams, where gravesites have been “flagged” by scouts and veteran groups.

There are fewer and fewer veterans from World War II every day, so honor them while they are alive, hear their stories and learn from the wisdom of their years. We did that recently with Ned Hill, whose thoughts are shared on page 2.

We should never stop listening and remembering. The contributions of our veterans should always be recognized, especially on Memorial Day.

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