What is the meaning of Memorial Day?

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I recently read Gen. John Logan’s orders to help prepare for the annual Memorial Day parade for the town of Norway. The Stone-Smart Post #82, American Legion, located across from Guy E. Rowe, plans and coordinates this wonderful parade each year.

The parade and ceremony include both the young and old, all those who are proud to be Americans — those who truly understand what it is like to fight for freedom; to put their lives on the line; to watch others ultimately sacrifice their lives for others.

Over time, I feel Memorial Day has become just about the beer and barbecues. Gathering with good friends and family is an awesome time that we are lucky to have, yet how many think about why we get this three-day weekend off yearly? Maybe not so many.

This year, I invite all to remember what is best about our country; to take a couple minutes to thank the veterans, both young and old; to pray for the families who have lost loved ones.

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Although our patriotism and honor as Americans are under serious scrutiny nowadays (heartbreakingly, by our very own president), we need to stand strong. We must continue to believe in ourselves and those in the Armed Forces, who are willing to continue to protect us, even if just to allow each American the right to his or her own opinion and beliefs.

My question is what will other people do on Memorial Day? Would they take the time to come by and watch the Memorial Day parade in Norway at 9 a.m. on May 31? The parade will march down Main Street and will honor those veterans who did fight and die for their country by placing flowers at both the Civil War monument and the veterans monument, across from the Stone-Smart American Legion. There will be a short ceremony, which will include a special tribute to a beautiful young man who recently lost his life protecting our freedoms in Afghanistan.

I would hope there are some who are willing to take a few minutes from their day to come by and at least acknowledge his family’s sacrifice.

I would ask everyone to please honor all veterans in any way possible. Those who are in Norway should take a moment to look at the Civil War monument, located across from Cumberland Farms. Take the time to walk up and read the Veterans Memorial Monument, displayed in front of Guy E. Rowe. It might surprise someone to find a relative listed there.

Others might consider visiting a family member or go by the Maine Veterans Home, or other nursing homes and say hello to some of the oldest living veterans. There is a lot of history in such places, and some of the cutest little old ladies and men that one could ever meet.

Note the flags, proudly placed at each veteran’s grave through area towns, or just take a silent moment of prayer, even though that seems to be somewhat controversial these days.

My plans for Memorial Day will include visiting the Maine Veterans Home in Paris. I look forward to some nice hugs and kisses from my old resident friends and staff. As an Auxiliary member, I am donating a paper poppy to each of the 92 residents. I will also donate an American Legion paper poppy to each resident living in both the Maine Veterans Home and the Norway Rehabilitation and Living Center.

I also enjoy visiting second-graders to share a brief Memorial Day presentation just prior to the holiday. I get to share items that I have collected with the children, including patriotic tattoos, coloring papers with symbols for remembering Memorial Day.

My family will visit the cemeteries of our relatives and plant some flowers. I shall make time for remembrance of all those. I shall be grateful for all my family that I have been blessed with. I shall send special thoughts and prayers to my brother-in-law, who is completing his second tour of action as a registered nurse in the Navy, stationed in Germany.

We have the right to believe in the good qualities of living in a free society, with certain God-given rights and constitutional privileges that were carved out of the blood, sweat and tears of our forefathers. There are some people within the nation’s political system who are trying to destroy some of the people’s rights. They must bear careful observation.

I will share these thoughts:

“No one has greater love than the one who gives his life for a friend.” John 15:13

“Our country asks great things from our servicemen and women. Sometimes we ask for the ultimate sacrifice. On this Memorial Day, we honor those who have answered the call,” M. Ryan.

“If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you can read this in English, thank a veteran.”

Will you consider acknowledging our veterans on Memorial Day?

Are you still proud to be an American?

Barbara Henley is Americanism, Child and Youth Education chairperson of the Stone-Smart Unit #82, American Legion Auxiliary of Norway.

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