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Memorial Day: Remember & Honor


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Memorial Day, now celebrated on the last Monday in May, honors service members who have died in military service to the nation.  The holiday has roots dating to the post-Civil War era, when citizens would informally place spring flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers as a memorial to their sacrifice.

On May 5, 1866, the town of Waterloo, New York, hosted a city-wide "Decoration Day", which formalized the ritual of encouraging citizens to create memorials by placing flags and flowers on soldiers' graves.  A few years later, General John A. Logan declared the first ever national Decoration Day should take place on May 30, as this date was a neutral day for both sides of the Civil War to honor their fallen soldiers.

On May 20, 1868, over 5,000 first-ever National Decoration Day participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  By the late 1800s, cities and communities across the United States began to observe the day and several states had declared it as a legal holiday.

Over the next few decades, the day transitioned from being called Decoration Day to what we now know and celebrate as Memorial Day.  In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May instead of a set calendar day.  By 1971, the three-day weekend for federal employees went into effect.

Today, Memorial Day is often associated with the start of summer, cookouts with friends and family, camping, or a weekend at the lake.  But I encourage you to make time this weekend to pay tribute to the fallen who have served our great nation.  We must remember their courage.  We must remember their sacrifice.  We must remember their love of country.

While you enjoy the long weekend, the following are good general travel reminders:

Buckle Up - it's the best way to stay safe in a vehicle and it's the law.  Remember the national Click It or Ticket is in full swing over the holiday weekend.

Don't Drink and Drive / Boat - Even one alcoholic drink can reduce your abilities and impair your judgment.

Put down the cell phone - Approximately 3,142 drivers are killed each year due to distracted driving.  That's about 9 per day.

Be prepared - take a map, atlas, or GPS; fill up with enough fuel for the trip; make sure your spare tire is inflated and you know how to change it; have your vehicle serviced before heading out; have an emergency kit with water, snacks, and medicines in case you're stranded.

Turn the music down - hearing sirens of emergency vehicles is an important warning to slow down and drive cautiously - you may be approaching an accident scene.

Keep your eyes on the road and hands on the wheel - eating and rummaging through things in the floorboard or back seat can lead to accidents.

Be courteous - because of the volume of traffic on the road, you're bound to run into a few traffic jams, be cut off, or be forced to stop short.  Remain calm and courteous and don't let other drivers ruin your holiday.

Get plenty of rest - make sure you're well rested before getting behind the wheel, rotate driving duties with others in the car to avoid becoming too sleepy or distracted.

Take frequent breaks - stop, get out, stretch your legs often to keep alert.

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office wishes you and your family a safe and enjoyable Memorial holiday weekend.


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Lafayette Woods, Jr.