President Barack Obama’s order to the Pentagon earlier this year for a full pullout of American troops from the 13-year-long War in Afghanistan holds hope that Memorial Day 2015 will be observed without a major conflict and without fresh U.S. battle deaths for the first time since the turn of this century.
That hope, however, rings hollow for the family and loved ones of Army Spc. Adrian Perkins, a 19-year-old infantryman serving in Operation Enduring Freedom, who died of a gunshot wound two weeks ago. Perkins became the 2,222nd American to die in the theater of war in Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history.
Unlike far too many Americans, Perkins’ family knows painfully well the solemn purpose of today’s Memorial Day holiday. For them, Memorial Day 2014 hits close to home and pierces the heart. It’s filled with emotions ranging from heart-wrenching anguish over their personal loss to pride over the sacrifice Perkins so selflessly made in defense of freedom, justice and other noble American ideals.
For far too many of us, however, Memorial Day’s primary purpose has been cheapened and corrupted. The day has become one to celebrate the unofficial start of summer, a day to fire up that shiny new grill for outdoor barbecues or a day to rush out to the nearby big-box store to save $500 on a new living-room sofa.
Others tend to confuse today’s holiday with Veterans Day in November. Veterans Day marks a nation’s homage to all men and women — living and dead — who have served in the armed forces in the nation’s 10 major wars over the past 240 years. Memorial Day is different. It is the day that a grateful nation has set aside to remember and soberly honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. Memorial Day is — as it should be — a solemn and sobering holiday.
President Obama reminds us all of that true intent in his Memorial Day proclamation. The war dead of the United States “gave America the most precious thing they had — the last full measure of devotion. And because they did, we are who we are today — a free and prosperous nation, the greatest in the world.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Sacrifice and selflessness indeed are the watchwords of today’s solemn holiday. That’s why it’s so incredibly important that we take time out today from sunning, grilling and shopping to pause long enough to recognize the Memorial Day’s true intent of recognizing America’s 1.3 million soldiers who have died in conflicts in defense of democratic values since the Revolutionary War.
Here are just a few ways to do so:
Proudly display an American flag at your home or business. If displaying on a flagstaff, be sure to keep it at half-staff until noon. At noon, the flag is raised high to show that the sacrifices of America’s war dead will not have been in vain and that living Americans will rise up to continue the fight for freedom, liberty and justice.
Attend any of a number of Memorial Day parades and events throughout the Mahoning Valley. One of the largest and oldest in the region is the 110th annual Boardman Memorial Day Parade at 10 a.m. on Market Street. It is sponsored by the Boardman Kiwanis Club.
Take part with friends and family members in the National Moment of Remembrance. The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time for one minute of silence, honor and reflection about those who have died in service to our nation. As Moment of Remembrance Founder Carmella La Spada put it, “It’s one way all of us can help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”