EDITORIAL: Memorial Day's special this year

Whidbey Island is fortunate to have one of the state’s few remaining Memorial Day parades, and this year more than ever.

The national day of remembrance dates back to 1866 soon after the end of the Civil War. It started as Decoration Day, as citizens decorated the graves of the fallen with flowers and flags, and in 1882 it became Memorial Day. In 1971 President Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday to be held the last Monday of May.

A lot of wars have come and gone since 1866, and many thousands of Americans have died defending their country and the principles for which it stands. That battle continues today, with casualties still being taken. Most recently, Gene Arden Vance Jr., a Special Forces soldier, was killed in action last weekend in Afghanistan.

This year, Memorial Day will honor more than distant heroes. It’s the first Memorial Day since Sept. 11, and the first one since sailors and soldiers were sent into combat as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Thousands, including many from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, risk their lives daily in answering their nation’s call.

Memorial Day 2002 arrives with a sense of trepidation in the air. It is no longer only soldiers who put their lives on the line. Terrorism makes us all targets, and as such we can more deeply appreciate those who have volunteered for this service. On the dawn of another Memorial Day, our nation’s leaders are warning of another attack, perhaps worse than the last one. Sept. 11 gave the rest of us a glimpse of what the violence of war is like, and taught us something about the fear of impending violence. As a result, we should appreciate more than ever the men and women in our military.

The town of Coupeville is hosting its annual Memorial Day Parade on Saturday, May 25, beginning at 11 a.m., a day chosen to allow more people to attend. It’s a service for the entire Whidbey Island community, giving us all a place to gather and honor our heroes.

Memorial Day will officially arrived on Monday, May 27. With the parade over, it would be a good time to recall the holiday’s roots and go out and decorate the graves of loved ones or strangers who have paid the ultimate price to defend their country.

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