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OP-ED | A Proud Veteran’s Thoughts on Memorial Day

by | May 27, 2016 9:59pm
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Posted to: Opinion

Sarah L. Hamby photo

Flags flying on the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Putnam on Wednesday

Happy Memorial Day. Happy. Happy Memorial Day. How will you celebrate the hundreds of thousands of deaths of our men and women in uniform since 1775? Will you purchase a deeply discounted new vehicle?

Will you perhaps visit a mattress store and invest in a good night’s sleep at a good price . . . brought to you courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue?

Festive in your patriotic finery, will you gather with your family for the annual “start of summer” barbeque? Rock your Old Navy shirt . . . made in Vietnam?

Will you eat mom’s potato salad on decorative plates and then wipe your mouth on paper replicas of Old Glory?

Is your proudly waving American Flag tattered and torn? Unserviceable? A Flag Day donation?

How will you celebrate the sacrifice of more than 42 MILLION men and women who swore to give their lives in service? Will you attend a parade; one of just a few dozen spectators?

Will you look around and wonder where everyone is? Consider the thousands who turn out for the Dazzle Light Parade? The 200,000 who turned out to watch UConn basketball players revel in their most recent win?

When the Colors pass will you stand quietly? Respectfully? At attention, perhaps?

When the American Legion marches proudly by, will you remember those who cannot march with them?

Or will you talk to your fellow attendees about the high prices of glow-in-dark-bracelets and cotton candy? Wonder if there will be any hot dogs left after the boring ceremony?

Sometimes I march in those Memorial Day Parades. I am always proud to carry a Flag and demonstrate my continued service to country. As a disabled veteran, Memorial Day means so much to me — I am here. They are not. I am proud to carry the U.S. Army Flag or the Flag of the POW/MIA — those who are not gone, but not home.

Will you be still for just a moment as these Flags pass by you? Ask your children to take pause from their summer antics and remember those who can no longer march?

May 21 was Armed Forces Day. A day to thank those who currently serve. It happens every year — the third Saturday in May. In November, the 11th day of the 11th month, many of you will thank veterans for their service to their nation. Please don’t thank us on Memorial Day. Some of us feel guilty that we are here to be thanked. Thank those who gave all in order to provide you the freedom to commemorate Memorial Day — remember.

I leave you with this: United States Flag Code: “The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery . . . The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard . . .”

Considering decking out your vehicle?

“The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used, or stored in such a manner as to permit it to be easily torn, soiled, or damaged in any way.”

Please consider this as you decorate for your Memorial Day “celebrations.” Respect our Flag – a symbol of blood and freedom. A symbol of purity, valor, and justice.

Something else to consider. According to the Office of Public Affairs, there is something you should do once you’ve had a nap on Monday afternoon.

Approved December of 2000, the “National Moment of Remembrance Act,” designates 3:00 p.m. as the National Moment of Remembrance. Congress then found that “it is essential to remember and renew the legacy of Memorial Day, which was established in 1868 to pay tribute to individuals who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States and their families” recognizing that “greater strides must be made to demonstrate appreciation for those loyal people of the United States whose values, represented by their sacrifices, are critical to the future of the United States” and that “the Federal Government has a responsibility to raise awareness of and respect for the national heritage, and to encourage citizens to dedicate themselves to the values and principles for which those heroes of the United States died.”

To that end, Monday, Memorial Day, at 3 p.m., local time, there is a federally recognized “National Moment of Remembrance.”

I ask you, all of you, to join me in just taking a moment — just ONE moment — to honor those who gave us the freedom to celebrate, commemorate, remember, honor, praise, cry for . . . all of those gave their lives in service to our nation.

Thank you.

Happy Memorial Day to Sgt. Tatjana Reed. Rest in peace.

Sarah L. Hamby served in the United States Army from 1994-1999. A recent college graduate, she serves NECT as a non-profit press coordinator and lives in Woodstock Valley with her fiance.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Originally published in the Villager Newspapers.

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