Spinal Column: Memorial Day is a time to remember past sacrifices

By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District

It is the middle of May, which means spring has settled in Michigan and Michiganders have put away the snow shovels and snow blowers and brought out the rakes and lawnmowers. After an uncommonly brutal winter, which saw numerous state records for most snowfall and lowest temperatures fall, the tulips and cherry blossoms are a welcome sight indeed.

Summer is right around the corner. Although the season doesn’t officially begin until June 21, it is the last Monday in May—Memorial Day—that marks its unofficial start. That is when people all across the state will fire up their barbecue grills, head out to the lake or cottage, and meet with friends and family to celebrate the beginning of the best summer season our nation has to offer. There is nothing better than summertime in Pure Michigan.

I welcome this annual tradition. It is good to spend time enjoying the great outdoors with those we love. Memorial Day travel and commerce are good for our economy. And breathing the fresh, late-spring, beginning-of-summer air is good for the soul.

At the same time, I hope we never lose sight of the real meaning of Memorial Day. It is an occasion to remember the sacrifices our armed forces personnel have made for each and every one of us. It is a day to celebrate the men and women who died to preserve our rights and keep us free.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, because it was a time to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves.

Memorial Day was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers.

After World War I, observations began to honor those who died in all of America’s wars.

In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May, with Veterans Day set aside to honor all veterans, living and dead, on November 11.

Every year my Senate colleagues and I set aside a session day to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. The Michigan Senate’s 20th Annual Memorial Day Service will be held on Thursday, May 22. Each year this service honors Michigan residents killed in action during the previous 12 months.

I’ve always found the Senate’s Memorial Day Service to be perhaps the most significant session day of the year. Everyone in attendance is reminded of the precious cost of freedom. We are blessed to live in the land of the free, but that freedom has cost the lives of more than a million Americans. Local veterans interested in attending the May 22 ceremony, scheduled for 10 a.m., should RSVP to my office toll-free at 1-866-301-6515.

We can all do something this Memorial Day to honor the brave men and women who gave their lives for their country. One way is to join thousands of volunteers who will pay respect to all our nation’s fallen heroes by decorating their graves with American flags.

One can also commemorate the day by displaying the American flag, attending a local ceremony or parade or by simply thanking a veteran for his or her service.

A special tribute is the National Moment of Remembrance, which asks all citizens to pause at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to honor those who laid down their lives.

However you choose to spend your time this upcoming holiday, I hope you take a moment to think about those who have given their lives for our freedom. May we never take our way of life for granted. May we never forget those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice so we can remain free.

This column first appeared in the Spinal Column. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the chair of the Senate Economic Development Committee. He serves the citizens of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.