This is a special Memorial Day post from my brother-in-law Ryan Lyons. Ryan is currently in the ROTC program at the University of Cincinnati. When Ryan graduates in the Spring of 2018 he will commission as a Second Lieutenant.
When reflecting on Memorial Day I am always drawn to the memories of my time in the Boy Scouts. Each year our troop would gather in the parking lot outside the municipal center in our uniforms carrying banners, a troop flag, and several American flags. Taking our spot behind the local American legion post for the very large Memorial Day parade for our town.
Each of us would wave and take turns proudly carrying a flag or banner as we walked down main street, ending our parade in the grave yard. There the legion would hold a ceremony and reception, honoring those of our town who, in the words of Abraham Lincoln "gave their lives that this nation might live".
Ceremonies and parades like this have occurred thousands of places all over our nation for close to 150 years. The tradition that we know as Memorial Day gained traction after the Civil War in 1868, when General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union soldiers who died with flowers. Thus it was first called "decoration day".
By the 20th century, various Union and Confederate memorial traditions, celebrated on different days, merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in military service.
This day is used specifically to honor those Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen who died in service to their nation. Often and understandably so, this day is confused with Veterans Day, the day set aside for thanking all veterans for their service in the Armed Forces. The distinction is very important, especially to those who serve and have served.
This day, for me, has always been one that I honored properly thinking of the families that had one less father, mother, son, daughter, uncle, aunt, etc. However, it was not until right before I was contracted with the Army Reserve that I learned of the personal significance this day for my own family.
I was given a picture by my grandmother of her brother Charles Keeley (at the bottom of this article) who was killed in The Second Battle of Naktong Bulge, Korea, 8 SEP 1950. He was 19 years old when he died. Barely older than me when I joined the Army. His service picture showed an all too familiar face with round glasses, broad shoulders, and a slight smile.
Beyond a few stories that my grandmother told me, I know very little about him or his life before the army. But I do know that she loved him dearly and his death impacted her life in a large way.
His sacrifice gave me a whole new meaning for my own service. I feel most proud that I am related to such a man that would give so much of himself for others and for the cause of freedom.
So I invite you this Memorial Day to take the time to honor the fallen and remember their sacrifice. Go to the parades, go to the ceremonies. Take the time for reflection and prayer not just for the fallen but for their families as well.
After your remembrance don't forget to have some fun with family and friends around the grill. I have no doubt the men and women who gave their lives wouldn't want their memory to be associated only with sadness and mourning.
Let's celebrate the liberties we enjoy as American citizens because of those who have their lives to preserve our nation and our way of life.
"That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." - Abraham Lincoln
Ryan Lyons-Guest Contributor