RACINE — Following the flag raising ceremony Memorial Day at the Racine Veteran’s Memorial, Pastor Duke Holbert presented the keynote address.
Pastor Holbert, currently serving as pastro at the Racine Baptist Church, spoke of the distinctions between Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, and Veterans Day. He emphasized understanding and remembering the true meaning of Memorial Day, and that there are two sides of the coin for many Americans.
“For many, Memorial Day is all about the bar-b-que, the crack of the baseball bat, the smell of smoke from the camp fires; it is a day off of work for us, a paid holiday, swimming pools open, and across American, we go on with our lives,” Holbert said.
But, he said, this is not the case with Veteran’s families, “They look out and see empty chairs at the table, they remember those they have lost, those not present to participate in the activities.”
“Lots of men and women serve, and do so unselfishly,” Holbert continued. “It seems like once a family starts in the military it is generational, a legacy for many families.”
He said it can be difficult for others to understand what those families experience.
“One of the greatest tragedies is when an officer and a chaplain knocks at your door. Memorial Day is very different for those families, and on this day we should all remember their sacrifices.”
In reminding guests of the meaning of Memorial Day, it is important to understand what each of the three holidays that honor military personnel represent.
Armed Forces Day is observed the third Saturday of May, and honors those who are currently serving in the military. The day was created in 1949 after the unification of the armed forces under one agency, the Department of Defense.
Veterans Day is a federal holiday observed annually on November 11, and pays tribute to all American veterans — living or dead — who served honorably during war or peacetime. Veteran’s Day replaced Armistice Day, the anniversary of the end of World War I.
Following the Civil War, with so many fallen soldiers on both sides of the conflict, people in both Northern and Southern states began setting aside a special day to honor them by placing flowers on their graves. John A. Logan, a former general in the Union Army and the second Commander-in-Chief of the fraternal organization the Grand Army of the Republic, was instrumental in the movement to create and observe an official holiday nationwide.
What began as Decoration Day, a day to honor fallen Civil War soldiers, evolved into Memorial Day, a federal holiday observed the last Monday of May. This day is now set aside to honor and mourn all military personnel who have died in the performance of their military duties.
The ceremony was concluded with prayer, and members of Racine American Legion Post 602 served light refreshments to those in attendance following the ceremony.
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Lorna Hart is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.