Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering and honoring those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is one of our longest standing holidays, being observed since the end of our Civil War.

Back then, it wasn’t thought of as a three-day weekend, or the unofficial start of summer or a day at the beach; it was intended as a day of gratitude and remembrance for those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country. Memorial Day is observed to honor those fallen comrades from all wars and conflicts that our nation has fought in.

Memorial Day needs to be respectfully recognized by all Americans, before we light the barbecue or open a cold and refreshing beverage. And please do not use the phrase “Happy Memorial Day.” It is an inappropriate thing to say, especially within hearing of a veteran who has lost friends or a Gold Star Family member. If you are not familiar with what a Gold Star Family is, they are families whose kin have died during military operations. To them, every day is Memorial Day.

Please take a moment this weekend to honor those who gave us the freedom we take for granted. Many communities have parades or a Memorial Service. On Sunday at Long Island National Cemetery, the service starts at 2 p.m. On Monday in Riverhead, the Combined Veterans of Riverhead will have a parade that starts at 10 a.m. from the World War Two Monument and march to the World War One Monument, St. John’s Cemetery, Riverhead Cemetery and back to our World War Two Monument. A short ceremony at St. Ididore’s Cemetery will follow. At 1 p.m., there will be a service at Calverton National Cemetery.

Give thanks to our fallen heroes on this day. I bet after you do this, you will feel good about what you just did.

Michael Pankowski is the commander of the Suffolk County American Legion. He lives in Riverhead.

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