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This weekend families all across the state will be celebrating Memorial Day. While it may look different this year than others, I think it is important we remember what Memorial Day is for and why we celebrate it.

Memorial Day, which used to be known as Decoration Day, is much more than the unofficial beginning to the summer season. It became an official holiday in 1971, but had been observed many years before, starting with tributes to soldiers who died during the Civil War. Over time a number of communities started holding their own ceremonies and placing flowers on graves. Now we use the day to honor all those who have lost their lives fighting for our country and the freedoms we have. We may take these freedoms for granted sometimes, and more recently we are learning more about what those freedoms mean to us and how they affect our daily lives. Observing Memorial Day could be as simple as the freedom to go where we please, see our family and friends, and go about our day as we see fit. Or this day could be spent celebrating the freedoms and principles that our country has been built upon, like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

One Iowan, and one of my colleagues in the Iowa House of Representatives, travels the state and paints murals on large boulders to help give some recognition to our state’s veterans. Ray (or Bubba as many know him) Sorensen, is known for painting the original Freedom Rock near Menlo and his tour across the state to put a smaller Freedom Rock in every county. You can find a map on the Freedom Rock website, www.thefreedomrock.com. The website shows the location of the rocks in each county, as well as which ones are done and which ones are still a work in progress. I’d encourage you to see one in your area as part of your holiday celebrations, and as a reminder of why we celebrate Memorial Day.

There is also a National Moment of Remembrance on Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time. In lieu of the parades or public events common on Memorial Day, a number of events are happening online. However you celebrate this year, please take a moment to reflect and remember our country’s fallen heroes, the courage and bravery it took to go fight for our country, and the sacrifice they made to protect our nation and its freedoms.

Author: Waylon Brown