David Hofmann of Blue Springs helped his mother and aunt carry wreaths and flowers to decorate family members’ graves Sunday at Floral Hills Memorial Gardens in Kansas City.
“It’s a tradition for us,” Hofmann said . “We’ve always done it.”
It’s important to get out and show honor and respect to those who have died, he said.
They were not alone. Others poured into the cemetery, searching for their loved ones’ graves.
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“We try to get out and just keep them in our hearts and not lose them in our memories,” said Chip McIntyre of Independence, who was there with his wife, Leslie.
Memorial Day in America has different meanings for people. For some, it’s a day to remember loved ones who have passed away. For others it’s to gather for a family barbecue. And for others it’s the official start of summer.
But as people go about their holiday weekend, veteran groups are asking people to also remember the day’s true intent.
“Basically, it’s the day — the one day of the year — that we have designated nationwide to honor those that have fallen in all of our wars,” said Ben Ortiz Sr., market celebrant for Dignity Memorial Funeral Homes in Kansas City.
Ortiz spoke during the 26th Annual Freedom Memorial Ceremony held at the Floral Hills Memorial Gardens in Kansas City.
He reminded people about the National Moment of Remembrance during which people are to pause for a minute at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day to honor those who have died while serving their country.
“I think that if we encourage our people to take that minute during that 3 o’clock hour to remember that, it would be a legacy that our children need to learn today,” he said.
Memorial Day’s roots trace back to the Civil War, according to the History.com website. Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day became an official holiday in 1971.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars has been battling the marginalization of Memorial Day for years.
“It seems that with each passing year, America’s understanding of the Memorial Day weekend and Memorial Day itself has sort of lost its significance largely speaking outside the veteran and military community,” said Randi K. Law, communications manager for the VFW National Headquarters in Kansas City.
The VFW has teamed up with USAA this year to raise awareness of the true meaning and sanctity of the day, Law said. The company has built a website where people can dedicate a poppy in memory of fallen solders.
The campaign has been led by the poppy, which has been adopted by the VFW and the American Legion as the flower of remembrance.
The VFW started distributing the Buddy Poppy nationwide back in 1922. The organization set up an assembly facility back in 1924 and it has been in operation ever since.
Disabled veterans produce about 11 million poppies a year. While the poppies aren’t sold, donations are accepted which go to fund VFW programs that support its members and their families, Law said.
The VFW would like people to remember the countless Americans who have lost lives protecting their freedom and liberating others.
“Everyone is busy over the holiday weekend,” Law said. “But just take a moment and remember all of those who have given their lives — our fallen heroes. And reflect on the fact that freedom is not free. It comes at a great cost.”