Honoring those who died serving

In 1987, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a World War II veteran, introduced a measure aimed at returning Memorial Day to its traditional date of May 30. He continued introducing that measure without success until his death in 2012.

There are people in this country who still ascribe to Inouye’s reasonable attitude that the holiday’s importance should have prohibited the congressional tinkering of June 28, 1968, when the holiday was moved to the last Monday of May from its traditional date.

But it is reasonable to assume that objection will continue to decrease with each generation’s wider distance from when the change was approved.

The change took effect on the federal level in 1971.

Now, 48 years later, most Americans either have forgotten about when the change came about, weren’t yet alive, or simply are so caught up in the activities of what’s now regarded as the unofficial start of summer that the holiday’s traditional date has little or no meaning to them.

In a way, that’s sad. However, what’s most important is that Americans today remember that Memorial Day honors the men and women who died while serving in this nation’s military.

Today’s holiday should not be confused with Veterans Day, which celebrates all U.S. veterans who served honorably on behalf of America’s safety and other best interests.

Again, today marks the unofficial start of summer activities. But, commendably, for residents of Blair County communities and places far beyond, the day begins with a patriotic parade and, prior to picnics and other outdoor activities later in the day, visits to cemeteries where deceased veterans, family members and friends are interred.

Over the past week or so, many area cemeteries have become a virtual sea of American flags adorning the graves of veterans, flying amid flowers and other colorful displays placed by family members and others on the graves of loved ones.

Many small children, accompanying their parents to a cemetery or cemeteries, are likely to express awe regarding what they are witnessing.

At Easter and Christmas, the Mirror, in this space, reminds parents and guardians to try to instill in their children an understanding about the deeper meaning of those holidays. Parents should not allow today to pass without similarly setting aside time to discuss what Memorial Day means to America and the people who live here.

And, as their capacity for understanding increases, children should be told in a careful way that honoring fallen military personnel extends beyond American soil — that thousands of deceased American military personnel are buried in foreign lands and that, regarding some who were killed in combat, their remains never have been found

Unfortunately, Memorial Day isn’t immune to tragic occurrences, so a reminder always is appropriate urging motorists to exercise caution.

Obviously, the need for caution also extends to other activities as well.

Numerous communities in the United States claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including nearby Boalsburg, but the observance’s birthplace is not what’s important. Rather, it’s that this holiday is observed today with the honor and respect that it is intended to command.

Memorial Day’s calendar date is in fact secondary. Honoring those who died in service to this country is foremost.