Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Memorial Day moments
Happy Memorial Day. Putting “Happy” in front of Memorial Day seems like a bit of a misnomer when you really think about it.
When you really think about why we celebrate (even that word seems too inappropriate, given the occasion) the last Monday in May each year.
But for a good many years, celebrate I did, without a backward glance toward the real reason behind the holiday.
Growing up in a town that considered bowling, hunting and auto racing as the top three sports (not necessarily in that order), Memorial Day was synonymous with the Indianapolis 500.
Nothing says the unofficial start of summer like watching cars take 200 laps on asphalt at speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour.
Many a barbecue was delayed over the finish of the Indy 500, which celebrates its 100th run this year.
As a college student, I spent a particularly festive Memorial Day weekend camping, boating and waterskiing on Apache Lake in Tortilla Flat, Arizona — about 65 miles outside of Phoenix.
Even there, I remember someone trying to find out who won the race. We boated, swam, skied, barbecued, imbibed in adult beverages and danced the weekend away.
No one gave much thought to what the day was really about. We were all just glad to have a long weekend to extend our playtime.
Lately, though, I have come to think about Memorial Day as so much more than an extra day off.
This world we live in has become a crazy place. Not to be confused with Veterans Day, Memorial Day is a federal holiday designated to remember those who died serving this country.
Originally called Decoration Day, it was a time when people would put flowers on the graves of soldiers who had sacrificed their lives in the fight for the freedoms we hold dear.
The holiday dates back to the Civil War. While it is always appropriate to thank our veterans and active military, this day belongs to those who gave it all.
Memorial Day is not a holiday you want to have a personal connection with.
I do remember going to cemeteries as a child to put flowers on graves of family members, as I believe the tradition has extended beyond the fallen soldier and onto remembering those we have loved and lost.
In 2005, I was working as a local reporter when we received news of the death of U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Adam J. Strain.
At just 20 years of age, Strain was killed by small-arms fire in Ar Ramadi, Iraq.
He was a graduate of Nevada Union High School, a former defensive end on the varsity football team and engaged to be married.
He was one of the first soldiers Nevada County had lost post 9/11.
I attended his service, along with about 500 community members, at Hooper Stadium.
Approaching the high school, the road was lined with members of Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, police and Marines holding American flags.
Inside, Strain was honored with a full military service — including a three-rifle volley. His parents received the posthumous presentation of his Purple Heart.
His football jersey number 88 was retired.
As I listened to those who spoke at the service, I could not keep my emotions in check.
This man — this boy — reportedly always wanted to be a Marine. He enlisted shortly after graduating.
I did not know Adam Strain personally, but after that day, I never took the holiday for granted.
These are real men and women with real families who gave their lives so we could continue to live with the many freedoms that make this country great.
Nevada County has lost its share of active military.
Some 15 soldiers who did not return home from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are honored on area bridges.
This year, if you have the inclination, you can take a guided tour of the area bridges on Memorial Day with a choice of bicycling, walking or riding a bus. Docents will be on site.
However you choose to spend the day, I would hope that you take a moment and give pause for those who made it possible — and to remember those you have loved who have passed on.
You will still have plenty of time to enjoy the day with family and friends — barbecuing, boating or possibly (on Sunday), watching the Indy 500.
Hollie Grimaldi Flores is the business development manager at The Union. Contact her at email@example.com.
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