Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

A long forgotten holiday that we need to keep alive.

My Dad used to say that certain holidays were "merchant holidays", but not this one.

My Dad and my uncles all served in the military in the 1940's and 50's. All of them served and came home. Memorial Day is to remember those that did not come home.

My Dad was stationed in the States when he served, never went overseas, but he was extremely patriotic. And I have an Aunt who lost her first husband in the war.

In Fort Wayne, we have a Coliseum where the Komet Hockey team plays, the Mad Ants Basketball team plays, and an arena football team plays. The full name of the Coliseum is the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, but most folks never use the full name. Today their will be a parade, it is a parade that my Dad & I would go to every year, the Memorial Day Parade that ended at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum.

Considering the fantastic weather, I wonder how many people attended today's parade. And I wonder too, how many people realize the reason for the day off. Do your part to keep it alive.

Harvey Mackay wrote about this too:

Land of the free because of the brave

By Harvey Mackay

For some, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, a long holiday weekend to head to the beach or fire up the barbeque. I sincerely hope that Americans attach a deeper meaning to this unique holiday.

Lee Greenwood wrote a popular patriotic song a number of years ago with lyrics that are perfect for Memorial Day:

"And I'm proud to be an American,
where at least I know I'm free.
And I won't forget the men who died,
who gave that right to me."

Whenever I hear that song, I am reminded how fortunate we are to live in a country where we can live pretty much as we please, within the law, of course. We rarely stop to think about what we are allowed to say or do, or where we can go. We are free to make our own choices.

What does this have to do with a column about business? Plenty! Our whole democracy survives because we have brave men and women who fight to protect our way of life. What we have in America simply doesn't exist anywhere else in the world.

We all have the chance to study what interests us, work where we choose to work, take risks and fail and try again. We sell our products on the free market, hire from a well-educated and motivated workforce, grow our businesses without limits if we are successful, and make a fair profit. We go to sleep at night knowing the morning will bring another opportunity.

We owe our freedom to those who are willing to defend it.
As a businessman who has realized the American dream, I understand that the sacrifices of our valiant service people have enabled us to live free and pursue our opportunities. We take our liberty for granted, but as the saying goes, freedom isn't free. We owe such a great debt to those who have died wearing an American uniform, or lived to tell about it ... is one day a year enough?

Here's a brief history lesson about Memorial Day. In the 19th century, "Decoration Day" was started to encourage citizens to decorate the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War. After World War I, the observance expanded to include ceremonies honoring those who died in all of America's wars. The holiday became Memorial Day in 1967.

Now, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. Touching and beautiful ceremonies are held at cemeteries across the country, and if you haven't ever attended one, I encourage you to go this year. I guarantee you'll come away with a new appreciation for the extraordinary efforts of our veterans, and the ultimate sacrifice of those who gave their lives for our country.
General George S. Patton offered his own perspective: "It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived."

Over 400,000 American soldiers and sailors died in World War II. Around 1,000 World War II veterans are dying each day. These are the unsung heroes who saw action in Europe, Asia and Africa, and then came home and got down to business. We know them as the "Greatest Generation" -- the men and women who took on big challenges and gave selflessly. Can we meet those standards?

I drive past Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis every time I go to the airport. The unending rows of white grave markers are a solemn reminder of the millions who have died for our country from the Revolutionary War to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

I wonder how many of us could survive boot camp, much less wartime conditions. My worst day at the office will never compare to what our veterans have endured.

We honor them for their commitment and service. We recognize their sacrifices, and their families' sacrifices, that allow us to go about our everyday activities. Even those of us who work seven days a week still go home at night, unlike those on long deployments overseas.

We shouldn't wait until Memorial Day to show our gratitude for our servicemen and women. Yes, I am an unashamed flag-waver. I like it here, and I am grateful to those who have made my freedoms possible.

Mackay's Moral: Show your true colors -- honor our veterans.

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