No greater sacrifice

Today, we are more than halfway through our Memorial Day weekend celebrations. Some are in the mountains; others are at the beach; and still others have opted to travel longer distances to enjoy their three-day or longer holiday.

On Monday, malls will be filled with shoppers looking for sales, families will grill out, enjoy picnics, play on the water or participate in any number of other activities designed for rest and relaxation.

Fewer and fewer will stop long enough to recall why we even have a holiday or what we are truly supposed to be celebrating, short of the official start of summer.

But Memorial Day goes far beyond barbecues and shopping; it’s about far more than days off work or the welcoming of a season. It’s about sacrifice, patriotism, gratitude and the solid foundation of freedom on which this country has been built.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. It was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed. The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.Today we recognize it as Memorial Day and observe it on the last Monday of May.

The celebrations we enjoy and the freedoms we so easily — and often — take for granted are rooted in the reason for the holiday, a time when we publicly pay homage to the more than one million men and women who have, through the years, paid the ultimate price to protect our country and its citizens. Their sacrifice represents the greatest example of patriotism and the ultimate show of love.

Today we return the favor in the humblest and most grateful of ways, and we encourage others to follow suit, taking time away from holiday fun to reflect on the debt we owe every soldier who has fought the bravest of fights, laying down their lives so that the rest of us might live ours free of the shackles of oppression and tyranny.

We owe nearly as much gratitude to the families of those brave men and women, knowing that they reluctantly, but with pride, released their fresh-faced young sons and daughters to a calling far bigger than themselves, a calling that would put them in harm’s way and, in the end, take them away from their loved ones forever.

Those we honor are true heroes, individuals who should be emulated, praised and honored, not just on this special holiday but every time we whisper our prayers or offer thanks for the blessings we have.

And on Monday, in gratitude to our fallen heroes, we ask Sampsonians to follow the National Moment of Remembrance resolution, passed in December 2000, asking that at 3 p.m. we “voluntarily and informally observe, each in our own way, a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever we are doing for a moment of silence or listening to “Taps,” acknowledging their sacrifice, honoring their memories.

To quote John 15:13, “greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

And that, we believe, is why we should pay homage to the men and women who showed their love of their fellow man in the greatest of ways — giving up their lives so we might be free.

Remembering the fallen this Memorial Day