Kolb: Memorial Day presents an opportunity for reflection, gratitude


Traditionally, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summertime, outdoor recreation. Families flock to beaches, campgrounds and host backyard barbeques for their neighbors. Citizens line downtown streets at celebrations, and churches are packed during remembrance services.

There’s no way around it- this year is going to feel different.

The governor’s severe restrictions on gatherings means that many of our civic and social traditions are on hold or will have to be experienced remotely. However, this represents an opportunity for all of us to fully commit to the true significance of Memorial Day. This weekend is the perfect time for solemn reflection, to really focus on the unbelievable sacrifices that hundreds of thousands of American troops have delivered to protect our way of life and promote freedom around the globe.

For me, it’s a personal appreciation. As the son, father, brother and uncle of U.S. veterans, I truly value the sacrifices made by our soldiers. Most of us can never fully understand how profound that choice is, to believe in our country so much that you’re willing to give your life to it. What we can do is express our heartfelt gratitude and deepest respect.

For our region, this is always a special observance. Memorial Day’s inaugural celebration took place in the village of Waterloo. It was first called Decoration Day. Local druggist Henry C. Welles has been credited with the idea to commemorate those who died during the Civil War. His plan was wholeheartedly supported by General B. Murray. Together, they created the first Memorial Day celebration for the village in 1866. That’s why Waterloo is called the birthplace of Memorial Day.

So much has changed since then. So much feels different this year. One thing that remains the same is our community’s unwavering commitment to the true spirit of Memorial Day. It’s about solemn reflection. It’s about respect. And it’s about gratitude for the men and women who laid down their lives to protect the freedoms of the American people. 

 Brian Kolb represents parts of the Finger Lakes region in the New York State Assembly. 

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