Why Memorial Day?

By Skip Sweeney

Memorial Day Committee Co-Chairman
Balfour-Cole Post American Legion #64
Smithfield Memorial VFW Post #2929

Several times in recent years it has been asked of me, what makes Memorial Day so special for you? The answer is not easily offered.

Perhaps it is because I grew up in a world in which almost all the adult men I knew had served in the armed forces during World War II and, or, the Korean War. Each year we attended a Memorial Day ceremony at the local cemetery. Here the graves of the war veterans were decorated and the widows and children of the deceased were acknowledged. Even if I did not then recognize what it was, I saw, and remember, how raw the hurt was for those whose loss was great.

Perhaps it is because I served in the Air Force during the Viet Nam War, in which classmates and friends also served, and some died.

Perhaps it is because I have traveled in many countries and, having seen and experienced the way others live, I have a greater appreciation of how lucky I was to have been born in the United States. Americans don’t live in fear of someone hearing them say something disparaging about our leaders. Newspapers which criticize our government and our politicians are openly read. We are free to worship the deity of our choice; to vote for the candidate we think will do the most to make our lives better; to move about our country freely.

It might have been so different. The military and imperialistic threats to our country are, hopefully, all in the past. We have lived free from invasions for most of our history and, with continued vigilance and luck, will for a long time into the future.

Thomas Jefferson is frequently cited as the source of the quote, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Vigilance is key, and for it we depend heavily on just a few members of our society. The few are the men and women of our armed forces. Whether they serve near or far, we have men and women making daily sacrifices, all willing to do whatever is asked of them.

The losses sustained by our military exceed one million service members. On Memorial Day, local veteran groups set aside an hour to remember and honor these men and women who died in order for us to live free. Is it asking too much of us to give up this hour for them? To me, the answer to this question is no, as I feel that if they are remembered and honored they will not have died in vain. Thus Memorial Day is special to me.

Won’t you consider joining us at Deerfield Park this Memorial Day? If one million of our fellow citizens thought sacrificing their lives was not too much, could you not sacrifice an hour of this holiday to honor them? And we hope the youth of Smithfield will attend and learn what this holiday really means, and why it is so special to me.

Ceremonies begin at 10:30 a.m. at the Veterans Memorial at Deerfield Park on Memorial Day May 30.