By the time this edition of The Progress Review reaches our readers, another Memorial Day will have come and gone. Originally called Decoration Day, the origin of Memorial Day can be traced all the way back to the Civil War, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Following World War I, Memorial Day was expanded to include veterans of all wars, not just the Civil War.
If attending a Memorial Day service was part of your three day holiday weekend, there’s a good chance it included men and women of the armed services. Last week, The Progress Review’s commemorative Memorial Day section featured 164 photos of area veterans who served in the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines.
It is certainly fitting that we take time each year to remember and honor those who have fought for our nation. Last week, a vacation trip out east helped me gain a new perspective on what it means to serve one’s country and painted my view of the Memorial Day holiday in shades of different color.
Our journey covered nearly 2,600 miles over seven days, driving east to Baltimore, south to Virginia, then north to Pennsylvania before returning to Iowa. One of the first stops on our trip came at the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. It’s a site dedicated to the 40 men and women who died while preventing hijackers from crashing into a Washington, D.C. target, most likely the U.S. Capitol, on September 11, 2001.
Upon arrival at the memorial, it was surprising how little there was to see. At first glance, the memorial was little more than an open field with a large sandstone boulder marking the approximate spot where Flight 93 went down. It then became apparent that there was a paved walkway leading to the Wall of Names, a series of tall marble panels, each one inscribed with the name of a passenger or crew member. The path leading to the Wall of Names was a quarter mile in length, providing ample time to reflect upon the events of September 11, 2001.
Looking out over that field on a warm, spring day, with the only audible sounds coming from the singing of birds, I thought about the actions of this diverse group of people, whose courage and ability to act collectively saved countless lives of their countrymen. It’s a stop I’m very glad we made and a reminder that in the most difficult of times, there are many ways you can serve your country. May we always remember and learn from the example set by the passengers and crew of Flight 93.