Our opinon: Remember the real meaning of Memorial Day

May 27, 2011 12:20:00 PM



What does Memorial Day mean to you? For most adults, it''s a day off of work. For kids, it''s a day out of school; for many of our local school children, it''s the beginning of the first full week of summer vacation. 


For race fans, the day is all about the Indianapolis 500. For many more of us, it might mean a hot dog on the grill, or a trip to the beach. 


In Columbus, there''s a special tie to Memorial Day; the origins of the nation''s original Decoration Day began with the decorating of Union and Confederate graves in Friendship Cemetery. Still, most of us, even here, keep our focus on leisure, food, or even shopping. 


Memorial Day is for all of these things. But before we set off on our Memorial Day weekend, we should all pause to remember this number: 1,344,000. That''s the number of American military members who have died in the service of their country during U.S. wars. 


First and foremost, this day is for those 1,344,000 lives cut short, and their untold millions of dreams left forgotten and unfulfilled. 


Consider that those losses represent a change in the course of our nation. In Columbus, we''re steeped in Civil War history. Consider the fact that in that war alone -- America''s costliest -- nearly 2 percent of the entire U.S. population died in uniform. Think of the more than 600,000 people in their prime who died in that conflict who never had children, never grew old. Imagine the infinite number of inventions never created, books never written, discoveries never made, buildings never designed, songs never sung. Just because of that one war. 


Of course, behind all these numbers are acts of heroism and sacrifice, known and unknown, on battlefields large and small, on every imaginable landscape in every corner of the globe. Those 1,344,000 saved countless other lives, and preserved our nation, because of their deeds and their sense of duty. In the end, we''re all their children. We owe everything to them. 


Imagine America as a sculpture carved from a marble block. The sacrifices of the 1,344,000 represent the spaces that have been carved away. The shape of our nation is what remains. 


America is carved from a solid block of sacrifice. That''s what Memorial Day means to us, and what we believe it should mean to us all.