This Monday we celebrate Memorial Day.  Each year we set aside one day to remember the men and women who gave their lives in the service of their country.  With its roots in the aftermath of the Civil War, the idea was to remember, or more correctly put, not to forget those who gave the greatest sacrifice that we might remain free.

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thanks to the Napa Valley  register-Jorgen Gulliksen

Thanks to the Napa Valley
Register-Jorgen Gulliksen

The secession of the Southern States from the Union was precipitated in large part by cultural differences between the North and South, principal among those being the issue of Slavery.  Over two years into the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in the then 10 Confederate States.  Many believe he did this to free up more conscripts who could join the North in the war.  Over 600,000 people died in the Civil War changing the lives of most families on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line.  The cultural impact of memorializing that many people led to a day to remember all who have died in service to our country.

Most historians believe that the key issue for which the South Seceded was States Rights as outlined in the Constitution.  The South believed that the issue of slavery was left by the Constitution to the States to decide.  In any event, the two long-lasting results of the Civil War were the continued union of all the states and the ending of slavery as it was then practiced.  Since the Civil War, our nation has remained free through the efforts and lives of hundreds of thousands who fought and died in two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan among others.

So Memorial Day’s roots lie in the hope that we should remember those who died to keep us free.  For descendants of slaves, this should be among the most important of holidays.  For everyone who enjoys the freedoms of life in the United States, this is a day to pause and reflect.

Whoever you are, whatever your background or ancestry, the chances are that in your heritage there is a person who gave his or her life that we might remain free.  I think the least we should do on Memorial Day is to say a small prayer for those who have gone before us.  And, we should redouble our efforts to return to a Federal system that grants most rights to the States and leaves us free to do as we wish as long as we don’t injure others.

Happy Memorial Day.

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