Editorial: The ultimate sacrifice

The patriotic crowd lining Darien’s Post Road cheers for marchers for a previous  Memorial Day Parade.

What are you doing for Memorial Day?

It is a commonly heard question as the Monday holiday approaches, especially in areas like New England where winters are long and cold. Memorial Day has become most commonly associated as the opening day of summer.

It’s a chance for a long weekend getaway. It’s when beach towns like Darien generally open their season. It’s when we open our summer houses or break out the summer clothes, and when we start believing the cold is finally behind us. Memorial Day, for many, is one of the happiest times of the year.

However, Memorial Day has a much deeper meaning than sunshine and summer. Unlike Veterans Day, which is when we honor those who have served our country and are still with us, Memorial Day is the day we remember those who died in the service of this nation. It is a solemn day of tribute and reflection. Its origins date back to shortly after the Civil War: According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, May was chosen because it was the time of year where flowers would be blooming plentifully. Flowers were used in the early days of “Decoration Day” as it was originally called, to pay tribute to soldiers’ graves.

Other historians point out one of the earliest Memorial Day ceremonies was held in Charleston, S.C., where black workmen reburied Union dead and held a cemetery dedication following the burial.

While our instinct when we see a serviceman or woman on Memorial Day is to thank them or honor them in some way, wishing them a “Happy Memorial Day” is the wrong choice. For those who honor their fallen brothers and sisters, the day is anything but happy.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating the beginning of summer and leaving the long winter behind. However, in between the cookouts, the parades, the beach and the sun, let’s take time to think about the significance of Memorial Day. Take time for a moment of silence to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could walk in the sunshine of our nation’s freedom.

It is a good opportunity to teach our children the history of Memorial Day and understand why we honor it.

In the past, retired Darien Marines talked to us about Memorial Day and what it means to them. They suggested instead of using their own names and stories, instead we should honor their fallen comrades who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

To that end, the National Moment of Remembrance encourages all to share a moment of silence at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day in honor of those who have given up their lives. And we should also remember those who have sacrificed much of their lives for our country. That’s what our Memorial Day special section is all about.

In addition to the cookouts, the fun and the intro to summer, let’s not forget what it is all about.

So, what are you doing for Memorial Day?