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Sherry Young: Memorial Day reminds us of the gift of freedom

Published: Monday, May 21 2012 10:47 p.m. MDT

One of the blossoms of springtime I enjoy most are the snowball bushes in our back yard.

They remind me of the huge snowball bush in our Farmington yard when I was growing up. My sister, Joy, and I used the blossoms to build fairy villages and other such imaginary pleasures and every Memorial Day mother would cut off many blossoms to add to the other flowers we used to decorate graves.

Memorial Day was always a big day at our house. My dad played taps at the Farmington Cemetery service on his silver cornet. After the official gathering we would place flowers on the Steed family graves in Farmington and head north to the Kaysville Cemetery for the Adams and the Greens.

After that we went to my Grandma Adam's family farm in Layton to enjoy a grand old time with my many cousins, children of my mother's other 11 brothers and sisters.

In Connecticut we celebrated Memorial Day differently.

Many of our friends and neighbors were transplants like us, so decorating graves couldn't be done.

Instead, the parade in Old Greenwich each year was something not to be missed. We watched it several years from the front porch of our good friends while eating brunch and mingling.

Other years we would just stand or sit on a curb along the route.

The year Olympic skater Dorothy Hamill rode in the parade our daughter, Melissa, was dreaming of becoming an Olympic skater.

Melissa's Girl Scout troop had the privilege of meeting Hamill and it was the absolute highlight of her young life.

The marching Scouts, the decorated bicycles (I helped with quite a few of those through the years) the bands and the whole atmosphere of the celebration was a wonderful community event.

The parade started near the beach and went along Sound Beach Avenue, ending at Binney Park where a proper ceremony to honor the war dead was held.

It is not unusual for peoples and nations to honor those who fought in their behalf. One example occurred more than 24 centuries ago when the Athenian leader Pericles paid tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War.

As our new nation evolved, no doubt there were observances here and there, but the first united effort occurred after the Civil War in 1868.

Major General John A. Logan, a member of the Grand Army of the Republic established Decoration Day as May 30. He instructed his posts to decorate graves "with the choicest flowers of springtime" and urged: "We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners… Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic."

Memorial Day, being the first escape into summer, tends to be one we all look forward to, no matter how we celebrate it.

Even though the premise of the day is a sober remembrance for those who died in our nation's service, it is a joyful day as well.

Instead of feeling mournful we are reminded to feel grateful for those who fought for our freedom and for our ancestors who gave us life.

As we grill on the barbecue and mingle with family and friends or swim in pools or hike or run races, the observance of Memorial Day reminds us all of the gift of life and freedom we are allowed to be living.

Email: sasyoung2@aol.com

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