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Readers React: Remember the fallen

A volunteer tends to the garden of 37,000 flags representing each Massachusetts soldier lost since the Revolutionary War on display on the Boston Common in advance of Memorial Day.
(C.J. Gunther / EPA)

For many of us, Memorial Day most tangibly affects our lives by giving us a day off from work. We relax with our families, celebrate the traditional beginning of summer or engage in the modern American tradition of repurposing holidays as consumer feasts, among other activities.

Some of our readers wrote to remind us what Memorial Day is really about and suggested ways to reflect on the sacrifice of America’s war dead. Here are some of their letters.

George Vreeland Hill of Beverly Hills sent us a letter his late father penned in 2007:

Today we celebrate Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day.

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To my mind, this is not a day of celebration but a day of solemn remembrance of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the name of freedom.

It seems to me that Memorial Day has lost much of its meaning while we talk about department store shopping sprees, visits to the mall and outdoor picnics, all of course fitting and proper for any Saturday afternoon day of fun, but not for Memorial Day.

Memorial Day is a day to hang out our flag and to hear speeches honoring our brave soldiers from all wars, from Valley Forge to Gettysburg to D-day and Corregidor, Korea and the Middle East.

True Americans have always answered the call of duty, and as they say, we fight for mom, the flag and apple pie. In other words, for freedom and a way of life we all cherish and love.

I think of the brave airmen who flew the war-torn skies over Europe in their mighty bombers, risking all to keep America free, many of them never returning, some under crosses in faraway lands.

If these and other brave men and women who fought could speak from their graves, they might say to us today: “Enjoy the day, but please remember us; after all, it truly is our day.”

Dave Connell of Laguna Beach suggests a way for lawmakers and voters to honor the war dead:

The primary purpose of Memorial Day is to remember and honor the more than 1.3 million military men and women who, throughout U.S. history, lost their lives to establish this country and protect it ever since from all enemies both foreign and domestic.

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The 1.3 million dead and the many more millions who served deserve to have every patriotic American honor them by voting wisely. And then patriots should continue to honor those who served by demanding that the politicians and courts also protect these hard-won freedoms by following the letter and intent of the Constitution when legislating.

Studio City resident Sol Taylor reminds us of the holiday’s solemnity:

I received more than one email starting with “Happy Memorial Day.” It is not a “happy” observance. It is solemn, observant, reflective — but certainly not “happy.”


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