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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Honor, service and sacrifice
Memorial Day means more than cookouts and vacations
Published Friday, May 16, 2014
by Michaela L. Duckett

Memorial Day, which is observed the fourth Monday in May, is a time for honoring the men and women who have died in active military service to America.

Memorial Day weekend is just days away. For many, the holiday is simply an excuse to enjoy some time off work, barbequing, drinking beer and taking advantage of Memorial Day sales over a three-day weekend.

However, there is a movement to shift the focus back to the holiday’s original purpose – honoring the men and women who have given their lives to fight for America and died in active military service.

“Anytime that you have a male or female that is wiling to put his or her life on the line and risk being wounded, especially those that are wounded, should be treated with the most highest respect,” said Norman Mitchell, a retired Army paratrooper and former Mecklenburg County commissioner.

Mitchell, who was awarded a Purple Heart for his service in the Vietnam War, said even the simplest of gestures can go a long way.

“I have people come up to me sometimes and tell me ‘Thank you for your service.’ It makes you feel like you are appreciated,” he said. “And that happens all of the time.”

Mitchell comes from a family of paratroopers. His father and uncles served in World War II. His brother and cousins served in the Korean and Vietnam wars.

While patriotism may be in his blood, Mitchell understands that it’s not the same for everyone. He said he does not feel slighted by those who simply view the holiday as a reason to relax and have a good time.

“Maybe they just don’t know,” he said. “But if they did know that the holiday they are celebrating is about giving honor and respect to those who lost their lives for this great country, I think they would actually appreciate it. Beside, there is somebody in their family that has served in the military.”

So how can you show your support for the men and women of the U.S. Army and honor those who have died in active duty? Mitchell said one way is to get out and vote to put representatives in office that care about issues that relate to veterans.

“We have some elected officials in our Congress that feel as though the Veterans Service budget is a little too high,” he said. “The veterans of today that are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, we have to make sure that the service I got is available to them also, especially in health care and things of that nature.”

As a county commissioner, Mitchell initiated the Status of Veterans Report. His goal was to identify key challenges faced by veterans as they return to civilian life and come up with strategies to address them. In that regard, he said Mecklenburg has one of the best Veterans Services offices in the state, but worries those programs could be threatened if cuts are made.

“We need to be more vocal on the national level and the state level about funding,” he said. “That’s how we can help.”

While Memorial Day is not officially celebrated until the fourth Monday of May, the entire month is dedicated as National Military Appreciation Month, a time to not only honor the men and women who have served and continue to serve, but their families as well.

“America’s service members make courageous sacrifices in serving our country, but too often the personal sacrifices and dedication of their spouses and families are forgotten,” Senator Kay Hagan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “While these husbands and wives may not wear the uniform, they are a critical part of the foundation that enables our brave warriors to complete each mission.”

How are you observing Memorial Day this year? Let us know in the comment section below.


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