The first veterans memorial I remember seeing was a statue of Francis Marion on the lawn of the courthouse in Marion, South Carolina. His nickname was “the Swamp Fox”, which as a kid I thought was funny so the memory has always stuck with me. Marion fought in the American Revolution not the Civil War but I thought of the statue again when war memorials began being removed from public places in recent years. I asked my dad, who was born and raised in South Carolina in the 1940’s thru early 1960’s, what he thought of the removals. He said, “I suppose it depends whether you think a statue memorializes the event or the person.”

Since 1971, on the last Monday of May, we memorialize the men and women who died in service to their country as members of the U.S. military. We also honor and celebrate others we have lost in our lives, friends and family, but Memorial Day became a national holiday to honor fallen soldiers.

The remembrance and recognition of the holiday takes place largely in cemeteries but in many places the sacrifice of our military men and women is acknowledged every day. Which is the focus of my May 5K as part of my “Year of 5K’s to Raise Awareness”.

Veterans memorials in our part of the country likely don’t face the same controversy as in other places but are really meant to memorialize the people. Men and women who join the service do so knowing they may lose their lives as a result. The families left behind know that, too. But if that possibility became the sole focus of the decision, no one would sign up and their families wouldn’t let them go.

When you’re at the cemetery today, look for the American flags. Think of the people buried beneath them. And if you want to remember them after today, visit your local veterans memorial. To find them in South Dakota, go to vetaffairs.sd.gov.

Next month will be the halfway point in my 12 months of walks. Got an organization, event or cause you’d like me to highlight? Post a comment with your ideas and details.

Happy Memorial Day.

 

 

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