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Meaning of Memorial Day Forgotten Amidst The Fun

By: Elena Sinnemaki

Date Posted: 2000-05-27

It is synonymous with the beginning of summer - itís a day (or a 3-day weekend) for families and friends to get together for barbeques and parades - you can always find a sale, but never a parking spot Ė Memorial Day has always been a holiday that people look forward to almost as much as Christmas. When they leave work on Friday, many will be heading to Okuma with some major R&R planned, and others to some remote area (as remote as you can get on Okinawa) to rough it out for the weekend. And yet others will stay home and enjoy the time off with friends and family. No matter the occasion or the location, there is always a feeling of contentment during this incredibly special holiday. Unfortunately, much like Christmas, the meaning of Memorial Day is often lost in all of the festivities.

Originally referred to as Decoration Day, Memorial Day was established as a day to honor and recognize those who fell during the Civil War; yet as the years passed, this holiday became a day to pay tribute to all of the service members who have ever given their lives for the United States of America all those years ago to protect the blanket of freedom under which all Americans can sleep. Itís also a time to honor those who were captured and never returned home to their families. The Veterans who are still with us today who proudly served their country in past wars join with all Americans on the last Monday of each May to pay homage to these great men who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Many cities across the United States lay claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day, but in May 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y. as the official birthplace of this Federal Holiday. However, it doesnít matter which city is home to this holiday, all on this historic day share the admiration and deep respect for all American soldiers.

Even though you may be stationed on an island far from home, there are so many ways to safely celebrate Memorial Day weekend right here on Okinawa. Camping trips to Okuma or Ikei Island are at the top of the list for vacationers this weekend. Family trips to Expo Park, barbeques, and squadron get-togethers are also popular. However, there will be two major celebrations this weekend that everyone can enjoy. The G8 Summit and America Festival will take place in Okinawa City on Friday and Saturday. The opening ceremony will be held at noon on Friday at the Okinawa City Civic Hall and events will take place between the Hall, Korinza Shopping Center, and Chuo Park Avenue. There will be free food, drinks, entertainment and everyone is welcome.

You can also check out the annual Kinser Summerfest taking place at Camp Kinser on Saturday and Sunday. There will be food, games, live entertainment, and fun for everyone! No matter what your plans, remember to celebrate safely. Donít drive when intoxicated and take care when traveling to unfamiliar areas. Keep in mind that this holiday is a time to remember some very important people who have passed through our lives Ė honor their memory by staying safe.

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