Memorial Day allows us the opportunity to reflect upon and honor those American soldiers who have lost their lives, paying the ultimate sacrifice, in an effort to preserve our freedom. Their courage and bravery must forever be remembered.
May 30th again marks a rich tradition dating back to the Civil War when organized groups of women began decorating the graves of fallen soldiers. After World War I, it became a holiday that honored all those who perished on the battlefield, regardless of the war. In 1971, Congress created the official holiday, to be held on the last Monday in May.
It is important that we honor the men and women who have given their lives, but let us also take this time to recognize those currently serving in the Armed Forces as they continue to fight to protect the liberties that we have come to appreciate. We were reminded just recently of the courage and resolution of our soldiers in the taking of Osama Bin Laden in a late-night raid of the compound he had been hiding at in Pakistan. That act helped bring some closure not just to the families and friends of the victims of 9/11, but also to those who have lost loved ones in the war on terror.
There are also great traditions that have arisen from Memorial Day. On the Thursday before Memorial Day, members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. That's been happening since the 1950s.
Here in Chandler, and across the country, red poppies have become the symbol of Memorial Day thanks to the folks at local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion Auxiliary posts. The custom was sprung from a poem by Moina Michael inspired by another poem, "In Flanders Fields."
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
Living in the United States, it is easy to take for granted our independence. But we must understand that freedom isn't free. Certainly, families with members in the military know this first-hand. So, the next time that you have an opportunity, I encourage you to take a moment to thank a soldier and his/her family for the great sacrifices that they make.
• Jay Tibshraeny is the mayor of Chandler