May 28th, 2016

What is Memorial Day?

What is Memorial Day and who are we celebrating?

Actually, the military (or Armed Services) in the United States have three separate holidays set aside to commemorate certain aspects of the military.  This surprises many people.  Veterans Day is always observed on November 11th each year.  This holiday commemorates those that have served in the past in the United States military.

A lesser known holiday is Armed Services Day.  This observance occurs on the third Saturday of May each year and recognizes those currently serving in the United States military.

The third holiday is approaching this Monday, Memorial Day.  While many celebrate veterans and active duty military members on this day, technically the holiday was enacted to honor those that sacrificed their lives for their country while serving in the military.  Usually this occurs in a war.  So we set aside this day to honor or hold a memorial to those that have died while defending the country.

Many communities, including the one I lived in for the past twelve years, hold parades and ceremonies to help us remember.  While the intent of the holiday is to honor those that gave their lives, as the saying goes, “All gave some, some gave all”, we also recognize those that have sacrificed and been injured in defense of their country.

I would like to highlight one such individual.  His name is Sergeant First Class Leroy Petry.  My wife and I were fortunate enough to hear Sgt. Petry at the Tri-State Warbird Museum Annual Gala in June of 2015.  He was the featured speaker.  I stood in line to meet him after the program.  When it was my time I reached out and shook his mechanical hand, his real hand was destroyed in battle.

Sgt Petry

When we spoke he thanked me for my 24 years of service in the Air Force.  But I have found this to be very typical of Medal of Honor winners, they tend to be humble and to be thankful to others around them – a wonderful quality.  I told him that he did more in his time in the military than I did in 24 years.  I am attaching a link to the Warbird’s website where you can see more photos of Sgt Petry:

Also be sure to check out the Annual Memorial Day Concert in Washington DC on TV Sunday evening.  It will air on PBS stations and is a very moving tribute each year – Warning: Bring your tissues!


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