When Jackson was a little guy, he thought the minute the candles were blown out on the birthday cake, it was official, you were one year older. This applied even if your birthday was a few days before or after the party.

Just like the candles on Jackson’s birthday cake, over the years, Memorial Day has become the official beginning of summer even though, according to the calendar, summer doesn’t really begin until June 21st.

Over the long weekend we celebrate at cookouts with friends and family, go on mini-vacations and enjoy trips to the lake. Until we are reminded by radio and TV ads, we tend to forget the real meaning of Memorial Day. It began as Decoration Day in the 1800s to honor and celebrate those who have given their lives for the rest of us to enjoy the freedoms we casually assume we’re entitled to.

Unless you have a friend or family member who is or has been in the military, the significance of Memorial Day might not even cause you to pause. My Dad served in the Navy during World War II. His ship’s assignment was change just before it left port. The ship that was sent instead, never returned. My father-in-law was in the second wave of soldiers to storm Omaha Beach. That all was before Jim and I were born. But because our fathers lives were spared, Jim and I and our kids and grandkids are here today.

Last year Jason joined the National Guard. He’s an Army chaplain. Everyone in the family knew before I did. I think it was like the commercials on TV, he was concerned how I’d react. I won’t lie, it did knock me off center a little, but honestly I felt nothing but pride. He’s gently explained to me it’s not whether he will be deployed, but when. It took me a while to digest that one.

So today when you’re having your burger at the lake or relaxing in your lounge chair at the pool, consider for a moment why you’re able to enjoy the privileges, choices and freedoms you have. “Thank you” to the men and women past, present, and future who serve our country.

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