While the usual barrage of barbecues and parade of picnics covered campus and nearby parks yesterday, many people said something was different about Memorial Day this year.
“It means something different because we have Americans fighting right now … it means a little something extra this year,” Medical student Joel Jacobson said.
Jacobson said though he planned to attend a barbecue and enjoy the outdoors yesterday, he thinks he and others are paying more attention to the meaning behind Memorial Day.
“I think people in general are more aware of Memorial Day this year than in years past,” he said. “It’s a good thing to be patriotic and remember what people have done for this country.”
Ann Arbor resident Ira Lax said while Memorial Day honors people who died in military service, he would like to see the holiday expanded in scope to recognize the variety of people who have made sacrifices for the country and life better for its residents.
“I think we should come up with a way to memorialize teachers and other people that serve and build the society in very constructive ways,” Lax said, suggesting that the holiday be “not just for soldiers.”
Recent University alum Corie Wright said she spent some time yesterday thinking not just about soldiers, but about the victims of Sept. 11.
She added that having grown up in New York, the issues hit very close to home.
“This is the first Memorial Day since Sept. 11,” Wright said. “You think about things a little more meaningfully.”
“Memorial Day is remembering things and it seems like September 11 is one of those things that’s at the front of everyone’s mind. That’s a hard thing to forget,” she said.
“It pretty much touches everybody – some people might be closer to Ground Zero than others but I think the effects are felt by everyone,” Wright added.
Larry Stalker, secretary of Washtenaw County Council of Veterans and Vietnam War veteran, said the national holiday sets aside a time to reflect on freedom and the individuals involved in achieving and protecting that freedom.
“Memorial Day is a time for the whole country to reflect upon all the sacrifices that the veterans have made – from the Revolutionary War right up until today. We wouldn’t be a free country without that,” he said.
Known as Decoration Day when it first began in 1868, the holiday was designated as a day to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers. The name was later changed to Memorial Day, a holiday observed the last Monday in May to honor past war heroes.
In a written statement from the U.S. Senate, Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) emphasized the importance of the holiday.
“Memorial Day reminds us that the United States has been tested many times before and we have always triumphed; the rights and freedoms that so many generations of Americans have willingly fought and died to preserve still endure. For that we are deeply grateful – not only on Memorial Day, but every day.”