Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial Day was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1971 Congress, with the passage of the National Holiday Act, established a three day weekend by making Memorial Day the last Monday in May.

While Memorial Day is dedicated to remembering those who have died serving the nation in war, it is only fitting that this weekend serve to remind us that tragedy makes all of us Americans.A shared sacrifice is an American value.

The tornado in Joplin last week devastated an area six miles long and up to three-fourths of a mile across. There are over 120 dead and hundreds still missing. The tornado was indiscriminate in its destruction. Along with hundreds of homes and dozens of businesses, it struck a hospital and three churches. The tragic stories of love ones pulled out of cars or from the arms of a mother fill us with heartache. Missouri Governor Nixon said: "You almost felt like you were walking on the hallowed ground of a battlefield. ... We are going to battle back."

On Sunday President Obama plans to visit Joplin. No doubt he will remind us of the many natural tragedies that have occurred recently.  These include other tornadoes in Reading, Kansas and in Oklahoma, along with the masive flood waters of the Mississippi. In a memorial service on Sunday, the President will recognize the significance of the loss in Joplin but also make plans to move forward. We are a resilient nation. Memorial Day reminds us of that.

This Memorial Day many Americans are spending the weekend helping out fellow Americans. You too can honor Memorial Day and help.

CNN - How to help Joplin, tornado victims.

KAKE - Find out how you can help Reading, Kansas.

Memorial Day has many other traditions - flying the flag, visiting the cemetery, simply remembering loved ones, wearing a poppy flower as a buttoneer, and yes, even the Memorial Day cook-out are all symbols that as a people we honor our traditions. Be American, take time off, come together, honor others on Memorial Day.

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