Legislative column

The Memorial Day holiday is, for many people, the official beginning of summer. Observed on the last Monday of May, it makes for a three-day weekend that is anticipated months before the actual date. However, there is more to this holiday than backyard barbeques and friendly celebrations.

The first observances of what was then called Decoration Day began in the years following the Civil War, when it became common practice to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. This activity gradually grew larger and more widespread, from the Northeast to both the South and West, as a way of remembering and honoring those that had fallen. Known by both “Decoration Day” and “Memorial Day,” until its official name change to the latter in 1967, Memorial Day became a federally recognized holiday in 1971. Even though the original intent behind the day has become somewhat obscured, many individuals still choose to decorate the graves of veterans, those who have fallen, in battle or otherwise.

Now, Memorial Day affords us the opportunity to take a few moments out of our busy lives to stop and reflect on the gift that so many fallen soldiers have given us, both in the past and present. It is an honor to be able to pay our respects to the brave men and women that have given the ultimate sacrifice to keep this country that we love free from tyranny.

It takes a very special person to answer our country’s call to defend it in times of need. But those that make the choice to do so carry with them our blessing and our heartfelt thanks from a grateful nation.

I encourage each and every one of you to set aside a few minutes this Memorial Day to say thank you to the fallen heroes, whether by placing decorations or flags in a cemetery or simply by reflecting on the gift of freedom that we have been given by others’ sacrifices. Our way of life in the United States hinges on each person that has put their life on the line to serve our country, and we should show them how much we appreciate the strength of their character and bravery.

Mike Cunningham is a Republican member of the Missouri State Senate, representing District 33. Contact him at 573-751-1882 or www.senate.mo.gov/cunningham

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