Memorial Day: Why Does It Matter?

May 2016

By Chloe Nadyne

Memorial Day is a day dedicated to the remembrance of those who died serving in our country’s armed forces. Unfortunately, it is a holiday that is often overlooked as nothing more than a three-day weekend devoted to barbecuing and yearning for summer’s arrival. There is much more to it.

The holiday was first celebrated in 1868 as “Decoration Day” and was established as a day to decorate the graves of those who had fallen while serving in the Civil War, both Union and Confederate soldiers alike.

Leon & Sara Zinck

Leon & Sara Zinck

Over the decades, it has developed into a time to celebrate all of our fallen veterans and takes place every year on the last Monday of May, falling on May 30 this year. There is no mention of this holiday on the Town of Rolesville’s event calendar except to note that the office will not be open. A call to Rolesville Town Hall confirms that there is no special event taking place on Memorial Day to honor or celebrate those individuals who laid down their lives for our safety and freedom.

Though no official observance is planned, Leon Zinck of Rolesville and his family will have a special remembrance on this holiday. Both his paternal and maternal grandfathers served in World War II, one as an aviation navigator and photographer and the other as a naval mail censor, and numerous other relatives have served in the military since then.

“History teaches us that if we don’t remember history, we tend to repeat it,” Zinck said, “… and honoring those who basically defended our freedom, protected us, even today, is highly important. If we don’t remember those individuals, we tend to pay less attention [and] don’t give them the importance that they deserve.”

He and his family celebrate the meaning of Memorial Day by having flowers laid on the graves of his veteran loved ones in remembrance of their service. The flowers also are a nod to the original intention of the holiday.

Dr. Michael Raburn

Dr. Michael Raburn

Dr. Michael Raburn, a Duke University alumnus and former pastor of Vineyard North Church in Wake Forest, offered something different on the subject. Having his doctorate in theology, his perspective of this holiday is somewhat unique. Rather than discuss the holiday, he pointed to a famous poem that was published 1882. The poem truly sums up the emotion and patriotism that should be associated with this important and bittersweet holiday.

Decoration Day

Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry’s shot alarms!

Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon’s sudden roar,
Or the drum’s redoubling beat.

But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.

All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!

Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.

Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.

                By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Let us not belittle the tradition and patriotism of this national holiday by reducing it to nothing more than an excuse to bust out the grill. Instead, in the midst of our three-day weekend and picnic extravaganza, take a moment and remember those who have given themselves for our freedom. Bid them an honorable thank you, and pass the meaning of the day on to the next generations, ensuring that the memory shall always be ours.