Memorial Day: The Meaning of Sacrifice

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Alrington National Cemetery Honor Flight tour
Arlington National Cemetery. Honor Flight, 2018, my dad’s last and perhaps most important “tour of duty” before he died. Photo | Keith Spiro

On Memorial Day, If you want to know the true context of the meaning of sacrifice, “you should head to and read some of the Congressional Medal of Honor citations” says my friend Mike Porcelli, an army veteran and chief of staff of The Gold Shield, a nationwide membership organization dedicated to helping veterans with PTSD and cancer.

Overwhelmingly, you will read about individual actions that saved the lives of the people they were with. Sometimes, at the cost of their own life. For the many who have served, we, their descendants and beneficiaries of the freedom we have, should be thankful. Today is a day of memories but also a day with the potential for action.

Memorial Day was originally named Decoration Day. It was established in 1869 by veterans of the Civil War as a way for our nation to honor the graves of those who died in that war. Today, as Memorial Day and observed on the last Monday of May, it honors the men and women who died while serving in the United States Military.

One action we can all take, says Mike, is to honor our military veterans sacrifice by taking care of the ones who survived.  Suicide and cancer take a high toll these days.  The 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report placed the number of veteran suicides per day at 17.6.  Suicide is a national problem with rising rates in the general population. Homelessness, isolation and a lack of social connection play a role.

So today, on this rainy Memorial Day, take some time and give consideration to ways you can honor the sacrifice of those who are gone and help those who are in need.

And if you didn’t see Friday’s article by Jon Hopwood, check it out now. He has some poignant comments from Mike Lopez, a former Commander of the Manchester Veterans Council, and information on the Vietnam Memorial dedication ceremony which follows the parade and other observances at Veterans Park today.