Second Place Youth Essay Winner
1st PLACE | 2nd PLACE | 3rd PLACE | Honorable Mention
Written By: Jeremiah Kirsh
As the burgers hit the grill on Memorial Day, it feels like the beginning of summer for the average American. The grass has begun to grow and the pools are open, but most have forgotten the reason for their ability to "kick off summer." They have forgotten that freedom isn't free, and that Memorial Day is a freedom. Set up after the Civil War and originally known as Decoration Day, it is celebrated on the last Monday of May each year (Krol). Although many forget what this day stands for, it is meant to remember those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. Memorial Day's true meaning lies in respect, honor, dignity, and remembrance for those who have paid the highest price for our freedom.
Memorial Day has lost significance in recent years. After the World Wars, the holiday was extra noteworthy, as many had lost loved ones in the conflicts. They are the true reason for this important holiday. In an interview with Joe Kirsch, age 63, it was explained that as a youth he and his siblings sold homemade vases over Memorial Day weekend at Oak Hill Cemetery in Evansville, Indiana. Friends and family of deceased veterans would buy vases to place flowers on the graves of the fallen veterans. Some years, over 1,000 vases were sold. This event shows what lies at the root of Memorial Day, loved ones taking time to observe the sacrifice of the many brave souls who protected our nation. Memorial Day is a day to put aside one's own enjoyment to show respect for fallen servicemen.
In today's society the average citizen understands why Memorial Day is important, but simply refuses to celebrate its meaning. After a poll of over 90 Washington High School students, recorded data indicates 85% of students agreed that the best definition for Memorial Day is "a day to remember our fallen soldiers," but only 8% said their families will go to a cemetery or do something extra to honor veterans (Survey). Our youth understand why Memorial Day is observed, but do nothing about it. Memorial Day, ranked 7 out of l0 as the most important holiday in the poll, is paramount. It's "an opportunity to remember the sacrifice of over 1 million brave [military men and women] who paid the ultimate price to ensure our freedom" (Dungjen). Memorial Day is the day to reimburse some of the debt to those who cannot be repaid.
Somewhere among the discount sales, hot dog eating contests, and barbeques are parades and decorated graves to honor the ones who have paid for the price of freedom that was not 50% off. The battlefield at Gettysburg, the beaches of Normandy, and the deserts of the Middle East share a common factor, that is, the American soldier who put the good of the Union before his own life is the purpose for Memorial Day. Each grave is a memorial; respect, honor, dignity, and remembrance should be given to the men and women who never forgot who they were fighting for. Therefore, on Memorial Day we must never forget those who never forgot us.