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'The Enormous Cost to Maintain a Free Republic'

Martinsburg Honors America's Fallen


Staff Writer

As he closed out his address at Martinsburg's Memorial Day Service at Morrisons Cove Memorial Park, Rep. Jim Gregory (R-80), looked out at the veterans, adults, and children seated in the ballroom of the park's building and asked them to not lose sight of the true meaning of the day. Echoing a message that was relayed at thousands of Memorial Day gatherings across the country, Gregory implored everyone to "never forget the enormous cost of a free and undivided republic."

As the keynote speaker, Gregory mixed history, patriotism, and a plea for all Americans to take a moment to honor those whose sacrifice paid the bill for the freedom to participate in the kickoff of summer recreation that Memorial Day has become known for.

"Like many holidays, the meaning of Memorial Day has become somewhat lost on many Americans," Gregory said. "For many, Memorial Day weekend has become the occasion for opening swimming pools, the initial trip to the beach, or it's been known as the weekend to buy a new barbecue grill, lawn furniture and summer clothes."

And while enjoying the day outdoors laughing, playing, and spending time with friends and family after a long winter is something most look forward to, Gregory said everyone should take a moment during the day to honor and thank the men and women who gave their lives so we can pursue the activities we take for granted.

"What we must not do today is forget what this day is about. We must remember and honor those who have perished in our nation's wars," Gregory said.

He then gently reminded everyone why they were there.

"We are gathered this day, as we do faithfully every year to pay tribute to our country's men and women who have fallen in duty," Gregory said. "Citizens of this great nation who gave their lives to preserve the liberty on which America was founded."

Gregory said the meaning of Memorial Day is perhaps better understood by its original name, Decoration Day, which originated in the aftermath of the Civil War when families from both sides of the conflict came together to lay flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers.

In 1868, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, commander in chief of the fraternal organization of Civil War Union veterans the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), designated May 30 for the purpose of "strewing flowers or otherwise decorating" the graves of those who died in the war.

By 1890, Decoration Day was becoming commonly referred to as Memorial Day, but it wasn't until 1971 that congress officially changed the name to reflect its purpose of memorializing all those who fought and died for America in all wars and set the last Monday in May for its observance.

"We truly honor those, so our country remains the land of the free and the home of the brave," Gregory said. "Each man, and each woman who gave their lives for our nation is a patriot, each is a hero. These brave Americans exemplify the best of American values under the harshest of conditions and often far from home."

Gregory asked everyone to use this Memorial Day to commit to the ideals of a free nation and never forgetting the people who put their lives on the line to ensure that freedom will endure.

"From this Memorial Day we can take away renewed devotion to the cause of America and to pledge ourselves to ensure that this nation will continue to be strong and free, thanks in part to the sacrifices made by the men and women we honor today," Gregory said. "Today reminds us of our obligation to take care of those who take care of us and those who still protect our nation. Because of the sacrifices of those we commemorate today, our future looks bright."


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