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What is the price of freedom worth?

EDITORIAL May 30, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

"What is the price of freedom worth to you?"

That is the question posed this year by Matthew "Fritz" Mihelcic, VFW national commander. It's a question well worth pondering today.

"It may be easy for most to head into this weekend with plans for family get-togethers, picnics, barbecues, and trips to the beach, lake, mountains, or wherever rest and relaxation presents itself with an extra day off from work. While there is nothing wrong with enjoying the freedoms our great country offers, it is important to remember what those freedoms cost," Mihelcic said in his remarks about the upcoming holiday.

Memorial Day, he said, was a day set aside "as a time of remembrance for those who paid for our freedoms with their lives. From the first Decoration Day in 1868, we have honored our war dead through ceremonies, graveside visits, wreath placements, and flower layings. These tributes were meant to remind us that each granite headstone or marble marker represents a life laid down for the price of freedom. Every man and woman that died in every war and conflict since the American Revolution, paid the debt that liberty requires. Their lives for our lives. Their futures for our futures. Their freedom for our freedom. This is the true cost of war."

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans, the Grand Army of the Republic, established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared it should be May 30. It is believed the date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

"The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The ceremonies centered around the mourning -- draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies," according to the VA.

After speeches, children from the Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation, the VA noted. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

We join with the rest of the nation in pausing today to remember the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform, and the "true cost of war."

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