While the crew of USS Gerald R. Ford works hard, steaming in the Atlantic Ocean for its fourth independent steaming event this year, Americans across the country celebrate Memorial Day, May 25.
Many Americans associate Memorial Day with barbecues, cookouts and pool parties. For service members and their families however, Memorial Day carries a more serious connotation than the start of the summer season.
“The reality is, it’s about remembering folks who have given their lives for their country,” said Capt. J.J. Cummings, Ford’s commanding officer. “I know through the years I’ve lost about eight or nine friends that have been killed in aviation mishaps or killed in combat. I’ll be thinking about them, and I request the rest of the nation to as well.”
Cummings asks that while we enjoy the long weekend and the beginning of summer, we take time to remember the Sailors, Marines, Soldiers and Airmen that have given their lives for their country.
Remembrances similar to Memorial Day began after the Civil War while the nation mourned the loss of more than 500,000 soldiers from the north and south. In 1985, in Charleston, South Carolina, former slaves honored more than 250 fallen Union Soldiers by landscaping a proper burial ground for them. As the U.S. mourned those who gave their lives in World War II, the holiday became nationally recognized and celebrated.
“The reality is, it’s about remembering folks who have given their lives for their country.” Capt. J.J. Cummings, Ford’s commanding officer
“When you think about Memorial Day, there has to be something to remember,” said Yeoman 3rd Class Lehman Bliss, from Riverdale, Georgia, assigned to Ford’s reactor department. “The holiday was created to honor the people who have died for our nation so we can celebrate the way we do.”
Referred to as Decoration Day for the tradition of decorating the graves of fallen service members, the title was officially changed to Memorial Day in 1967. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Act, specifying that Memorial Day is to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.
Today, Memorial Day is marked with summer festivities and a long weekend. It is also a time for serious reflection on the sacrifices service members have made to ensure Americans can enjoy their freedoms.
“Take the time out to remember the sacrifice that was made — the lives that were lost,” said Aviation Ordnanceman 1st Class Melissa Sweeting, from Decatur, Georgia, assigned to Ford’s weapons department. “It’s more than just barbecuing, it’s paying honor and celebrating those that served.”
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