Reflecting on the true spirit of this weekend

I used to view Memorial Day as the first holiday weekend of summer.

Working at a campground, it was hard not to. All the campground employees worked endless hours over the Memorial Day weekend each summer as the campground filled to capacity.

These days, I appreciate that fact, but now I observe it much differently, as I stand in humble respect and appreciation for the sacrifice brave men and women have made on my behalf.

Freedom, as we all know, is by no means free, and many have made the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to ensure my world, and that of my family, is safe today.

I am humbled by their actions. I appreciate their sacrifice. And, this weekend, I choose to remember them for their service to our country.

Living in Alpena has made it easy for all of us to remember and honor our true heroes.

Every Memorial Day, there is a wonderful service at Little Flanders Field that is preceded by a parade from the county courthouse.

Also, for the past several years, members of the Alpena Boosters Club and Alpena Kiwanis Club have put out flags as part of the Heroes Avenue of Flags project. Flags line the city’s bi-path along Washington Avenue, from Little Flanders Field to Washington Avenue Park, and also along the bi-path from Duck Park up to the Chisholm Street Bridge over the Thunder Bay River.

Yes, it is hard to live in Northeast Michigan this weekend and not feel a tinge of patriotism.

Over the years, in excess of 1 million U.S. soldiers have lost their lives in battle. Think about that for a moment: over 1 million! It is a sobering reality of the price of war.

One of my favorite walks this time of year is through Evergreen Cemetery. I enjoy learning a little of the history of people from their headstones. And, where American flags mark a veteran’s grave, I always stop, pause and read.

As I do, I share a prayer for the person and his or her family that was left behind.

Fellow columnist Glenn Mollette, writing this week, offered this observation: “The bottom line is America is still the greatest country in the world. We aren’t perfect and we have problems but we still have freedom and we need to respect and give thanks to our past and present soldiers.”

Indeed we do.

Memorial Day is about remembering the ultimate sacrifice.

As President George W. Bush reminded us, “Looking across this field, we see the scale of heroism and sacrifice. All who are buried here understood their duty. All stood to protect America. And all carried with them memories of a family that they hoped to keep safe by their sacrifice.”

This weekend, join with me in remembering these brave men and women.

Bill Speer can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 311, or bspeer@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @billspeer13.