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Same respect for Memorial Day

It will be a different Memorial Day this week. Across most of America, there will be no gatherings of people at the traditional ceremonies, and fewer people will feel safe venturing out even to informal recognitions of those men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.

But even if you’re not up to going out at all on Monday, we encourage you still to give your thoughts to the extraordinary sacrifices so many others have made for our freedoms.

At least 1.2 million people have died fighting for America, starting during the American Revolution and all the way up to the present day. Many more didn’t die during battle but died while on active duty in the military.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, originating in the years following the Civil War and later evolved to commemorate the dead from all of America’s conflicts. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.

It is not a day to honor veterans — that day is Veterans Day, Nov. 11. It is not a day to honor those who currently serve on active duty — that’s the third Saturday in May, which we just passed. While veterans and those who still serve certainly deserve to be honored, there are separate days for them. Memorial Day is specifically set aside for those who paid the ultimate price in service to their country.

Memorial Day in Suffolk is usually commemorated with gatherings at cemeteries including Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery as well as Cedar Hill Cemetery, which also includes a large number of veterans. At these cemeteries, you would see flags, hear speeches and “Taps,” and quite probably leave feeling a tear in your eye and more appreciation for those who have signed up to serve and never came home.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, none of those ceremonies will happen this year, although you’re free to go out to Horton, to Cedar Hill or to many other local cemeteries if you feel safe to do so and if you maintain six feet of distance from others who are there to pay their respects. Even if you can’t do that, though, we hope you take a minute to reflect on those who gave so much so that we could have so much — so much freedom, so much hope, so much pride.

Thank you to all who are honored on this day and their families.