As the weather has gradually grown warmer in the approach to this Memorial Day, our thoughts turn to barbecues and picnics, a time to gather among neighbors, families and friends. Many of us look forward with anticipation to the three-day weekend, taking advantage of the extra day off to do some traveling, or simply to catch up on some much needed relaxation.
But more often than not, we forget what Memorial Day really means, and very rarely do we ask ourselves why we celebrate Memorial Day. For those of us who have served it is time to remind ourselves to remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Though many of us we carry those thoughts in the deep recesses of our soul for a life time, Memorial Day is a day for reconciliation, a day that we come together to collectively honor those who have sacrificed in service to our great nation. Today we openly show our deepest appreciation to those men and women in uniform who gave their last full measure of devotion for the freedom we so enjoy in this great nation.
It is our sacred duty to preserve the legacy of these brave Americans, and it remains our charge to work for peace, freedom, and security. Let us always strive to uphold the founding principles they died defending, let their legacy continue to inspire our nation and let this solemn lesson of service and sacrifice be taught to future generations of Americans.
To help in preserving that legacy, a National Moment of Remembrance was established in 2000 to bring Memorial Day back to the noble and sacred holiday it was meant to be. The idea for holding a moment of remembrance came about when children touring the national capital were asked what Memorial Day means and "... the day the pool opens" was the response. The Moment of Remembrance web site quotes a Gallup poll which states only 28 percent of Americans know what the true meaning of Memorial Day is and lists three reasons why we Americans should honor the Moment:
To remember the memory of our fallen soldiers, to unite Americans in a moment of gratitude and respect, and provide a sense of history to our citizens and ensure that younger generations understand the sacrifices made to preserve our liberties.
When we returned from Vietnam we had no parades, no accolades, no "Wounded Warrior Program," we just moved forward without a defined support network. We had no need to be "reminded" of our service, we had each other and eventually we had "The Wall" as our touchstone, where 58,000 names are etched in simple black granite as a reminder of the cost of freedom to just one generation. It is our emotional "welcome home."
Though our generation was ostracized for our efforts on behalf of freedom, we said to ourselves that "Never again shall one generation of warriors forget another." So we in turn celebrate the memory of those fallen warriors not only of our generation but those who sacrificed from many wars past. As veterans we do this out of mutual respect and admiration for service and sacrifice rendered. It is our way to share in a moment of remembrance.
Alaska stands proud in its observance of Memorial Day, a day as an extension of many days past when we pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate price to defend the United States and the principles upon which America was founded.
We ask for God's grace to protect those fighting in distant lands, and we renew our promise to support our troops, their families, and our veterans. Their unwavering devotion inspires us all -- they are the best of America.
Laddie Shaw is a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, where he served with Seal Team One. He also is a former state commissioner of Military and Veterans Affairs.