Growing up my parents both labored to teach me the value of honoring the men and women who have or are serving in America's armed forces. My father is a veteran of the Vietnam War and my mother is a red-white-and-blue-blooded patriotic southerner whose roots go all the way back to Colonel James Barnett who fought in the 6th and 2nd Virginia Regiments which served under General George Washington during the famous Delaware River crossing at Trenton, NJ when Washington's forces rowed across the river to surprise England's Hessian mercenaries on December 26, 1776.
Colonel Barnett served his fledgling country until the war's end when he returned to Virginia to enjoy the freedoms that he and his comrades had so recently fought for. They were, and are, freedom which many in my family line have served and sacrificed to protect and defend, from the Revolutionary War to the War of 1812, then the Civil War, at the Alamo, and in World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.
Many came home from their respective conflicts; many did not and their bodies lay in states of honor in cemeteries across the nation and around the world. It is a humbling experience to walk the hallowed grounds of Arlington or other American military cemeteries to find the resting places of these ancestors who "gave the ultimate sacrifice" in the service to their country, this country, the United States of America.
I admit that given the cost paid by so many families throughout America's history, a part of me wishes more of my fellow-citizens paid closer attention to the true meaning of Memorial Day, a holiday whose original name almost holds more meaning: Decoration Day. Indeed, one veteran from Indiana spoke those same concerns in 1913 when he lamented that people born after the Civil War had a "tendency... to forget the purpose of Memorial Day and make it a day for games, races and revelry, instead of a day of memory and tears" (yes, some called it "Memorial Day" back then).