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Opinion | The real meaning of Memorial Day

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You often hear well-meaning people wish you “a happy Memorial Day.” They are likely referring to the Monday off work, the barbeques, the celebrations, and the time with family. While we are all too polite to correct them, happy Memorial Day is not the appropriate greeting.

This weekend at church and at the Pelican Reef Restaurant for Sunday dinner, I intentionally wished others a “blessed Memorial Sunday.” It seemed to work.

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States and a state holiday in Alabama. It is for remembering those who died while serving in the country’s armed forces. The holiday, which is observed on the last Monday of May, is held on May 28, 2018. It marks the unofficial start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

In decades past, the day was named “Decoration Day.” Many people continue to visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who died in military service. Many volunteers place American flags on each grave in national cemeteries. My father-in-law and mother-in-law, Lt. Jack Malloy and wife Etta Marie Malloy, are buried and remembered in the National Cemetery in Beaufort, South Carolina near Parris Island, where incoming Marines train.

Memorial Day is often confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day is for remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the prior service of all U.S. military veterans. It is also not to be confused with Armed Forces Day, a lesser-known remembrance celebrated earlier in May, which honors those currently serving in the U.S. military.

Freedom is not free. It comes at a high price. All veterans gave some, and some gave all. Memorial Day is to remember those who gave all.

Jim Zeigler is the elected State Auditor of Alabama. Prior to 2014, he was a certified veterans’ attorney, representing veterans in obtaining the elder care benefits which their service earned.

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