It is all too commonplace to think of Memorial Day as the semiofficial start of the summer season, with its long-awaited vacations and backyard barbecues. We start our gardens, do some work on projects or get out those fun summer clothes. This celebratory theme was reinforced by Congress in 1971, when the day was moved to the last Monday in May - to make room for a nice three-day weekend - rather than the traditional date of May 30.
Memorial Day, of course, is the day set aside to honor those who gave, as Abraham Lincoln put it, "the last full measure of devotion" in service to the country in military conflicts. Historically it began as Decoration Day to honor those killed in the Civil War, by decorating their graves with flowers, flags and other symbols of respect. By the end of the century all the northern states recognized Decoration Day, but most southern states chose to honor their dead on different days.
Regardless of how the commemoration rituals have changed over the years, it is still a time to remember those men and women who have stood bravely in harm's way. Some have lost their lives, some their limbs or the capacity to cope after their return home.
We should not forget that sometimes the sacrifice is not a life lost, but is still just as devastating. The Gazette's "Other than Honorable" investigative series May 19-21, profiled an increasing number of soldiers, including wounded combat veterans, that are in their own way, partial casualties of recent wars.
Almost every American family had a personal connection to somebody who had fallen in battle or whose wounds were a reminder for a lifetime.
Here in Colorado Springs we are especially close to the military. Our neighbors, our co-workers, perhaps even our families, are retirees or active-duty military.
It is a part of the fabric of the city. So it is more important that we take a moment to remember the 375 local troops lost in the last 10 years of war - 12 from Fort Carson, just this year. They will not return to their loved ones. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who died to preserve our way of life.
As you enjoy leisure and freedom today, please remember those who served, as Gen. Douglas MacArthur put it, "for duty, honor and country." Raise a glass to those who sacrificed so that you can begin what we hope will be a wonderful summer.
Happy Memorial Day.