To most Americans, Memorial Day represents the beginning of summer: backyard barbecues, days at the beach, fun.
The genesis of this American holiday is honoring all the men and women who have died in military service to the United States since the Civil War. This weekend members of the military, scouts and others will conduct salutes to their fallen comrades in Memorial Day parades and somber graveside services in communities large and small across the country.
Locally, Oswego Pioneer Cemetery will hold a Memorial Day Tribute on Monday at 11 a.m
Certainly, each of us owes a debt of gratitude to the men and women who have given their lives fighting for the freedoms we enjoy. Those freedoms include freedom of expression, of religion, to participate in our legislative processes, to choose an occupation, to move around and to choose our friends. Memorial Day serves as a gentle reminder that multitudes of Americans paid a heavy price - indeed, the ultimate price - for the rest of us to enjoy a 'free world.'
So how do we make sure we continue to enjoy the freedoms our forefathers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters and sons and daughters died for?
We can start by enjoying our freedoms, recognizing what they mean to us and where they came from. We can also understand that freedom is not something to be taken for granted. Finally, we can make a decision to do our part in making sure freedom continues to ring in these United States.
In the simplest terms, the best way to preserve our freedoms is to exercise our responsibilities as citizens. These responsibilities include becoming active participants in the political process, electing the very best people possible at every level, getting involved in our communities by volunteering in civic organizations or cause, working, voting, paying taxes, obeying laws and setting good examples of citizenship for our kids.
Does that mean that in order to be 'patriotic' we blindly go along with everything our government leaders want to do, or give the military a blank check to make obscene investments in firepower, or that we sit quietly while they invade and occupy sovereign countries and thumb their noses at the Geneva Convention?
Of course not.
The Founding Fathers felt strongly that we have not only the right, but also the duty, to rein in the excesses of government and knew that unfettered political dissent and a well-regulated militia were necessary checks on government excesses. Ultimately, we are individually and personally responsible for the freedoms we enjoy. Memorial Day is as good a time as any to reaffirm our commitment to that precept.