Sunday, May 30, 2010 | By: Tonya Keitt Kalule

Realizing Memorial Day

Deciding to go out to Santa Monica Beach is always something I want to do, but this being a holiday weekend I wanted to go take in the sun and sights before the holiday crowd came on Sunday and Monday.

I discovered that the older I get the less I like large crowds. Well I was not able to avoid the crowd, but I knew that it would be worst the more we got into this holiday weekend.

After parking in the first parking lot right on the beach, we decided to walk back toward the Santa Monica Pier. It was a nice breeze on the beach and there were people everywhere. As we started to walk along the pier trying to decide where we will eat, we noticed a memorial down below, actually on the beach. It was at that moment when the real meaning and purpose of this holiday hit home for me.

The white crosses were for those lost in the war in Iraq, and the red crosses were for those lost in Afghanistan.

We decided to go down and take a closer look and there were names and pictures as well as an area where you could write what every you wanted in memory of our fallen troops. When I read the names and looked at the faces and read what had already been written there, I started to feel that pull at my heart and became a bit emotional. I found that there were many others there having the same experience.

This was actually the first time that I got it. I was living through this war, that we often try not to think about, because it is actually occurring on foreign soil. At first I was sad that so many lives were lost and so many families forever affected by it, and then I started to feel a sense of pride and gratitude. That is what I left with.

I was also grateful that whoever decided to put the memorial there did so. It reminded those that were on the beach to have fun in the sun,
why they really are able to celebrate this
day with such freedom.

These are the names and it goes on and on. It makes these people more than just a casualty, it makes them human. Somebody's son, daughter, husband, wife, mother, father, or friend. It made you feel the sacrifice of so many people.

emorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, when many women would decorate the grave sites of fallen soldiers. After the Civil War, there were said to be celebrations all over the country to mark the end of the war and to memorialize those that died.

A history professor from Yale University believes that the first observance of memorial day was in Charleston, South Carolina, where the was a prison camp for captured Union soldiers as well as a mass grave. After the hostilities of the Civil War, in 1865, formerly enslaved people exhumed the bodies from the mass graves and reinterred them into individual graves. They then put a fence around the grounds and called it a union graveyard.This was all finished in about ten days.

It was reported in the Charleston newspaper on May 1, 1865, that a crowd of approximately ten thousand people, predominantly black, gathered at this graveyard where there were sermons, singing, and picnics.

Many years later it was changed to Memorial Day and observed by all 50 states.


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