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Posted: May 28, 2017 5:00 a.m.

Have You Ever Thought… Why do we have Memorial Day?

The statement that “All Politics is Local” is usually accredited to the late Tip O’Neal, who served as the 55th Speaker of the U.S. House, 1977-1987. He is said to have used the phrase in his first campaign for the House in 1935. I would want to paraphrase that statement on this Memorial Day Weekend, to say that “All Patriotism is Local.” Those we recall this weekend who gave their lives that we might be free, did it not so much for some abstract idea but for their families and neighbors.

Standing on the North West corner of the Square in the heart of Covington is an obelisk in honor of those from our county that we remember on Memorial Day. Carved on the side facing Clark Street is the statement “In loving and grateful memory of those citizens of Newton County who gave their lives in defense of our country.” On the other sides are listed the names of those from Newton County who died in the service from World War I to Iraq. These same names are on the crosses put out by the American Legion Post 32 at the corner of Emory Street and Highway 278 in front of the Newton Federal Bank.

It is one thing to talk about the more than a million and half of our countryman who gave their lives in war that we might be the nation we are.  It is another thing to name our neighbors and perhaps family members that were among those who sacrificed.   And we have this day so that their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

We must never think of those names listed on the obelisk at the square or on the crosses on the lawn of the bank, merely as individuals.  Their families were forever changed by their deaths. There was one missing at the table at Thanksgiving or not present for the birth of a grandchild or countless other family celebrations. Our thoughts are with their families this week end as they remember those they lost.

They were a part of our community.  Their absence probably changed what has happened in our community. We will never know the impact they might have made if they had lived. What professions they may have pursued or fields plowed or businesses opened. We will never know the impact they may have had on the lives they would have touched. They were unique individuals and their absence will always leave us missing what they could have been.

But what they gave us in their sacrifice gives to each of us the freedoms and opportunities that we enjoy. Their gift of freedom takes on far greater value when we dare to use it for the progress and common good of our community and county.

Memorial Day was known as “Decoration Day” in its early years.  It was a time to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers and sailors. Thus the date varied across the nation.  Different parts of the nation had flowers available at different dates. Still to this day, many will observed Memorial Day with the placing of a flag and/or flowers on the graves in such places as the national cemeteries. Flags and flowers will also be placed on graves of veterans buried elsewhere.

To really appreciate what makes patriotism local, let me invite you to join your neighbors at the Northwest Corner of the Square, tomorrow for a Memorial Day Remembrance at 10 a.m.   The crowd will fill the streets at that corner.  Our local American Legion Post 32 sponsors and leads this service of remembrance.

A time such as that will occur on the square.  It is a great time to celebrate what it is to be a patriot.  There will be the presentation of the colors followed by the Star Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance. Taps will be played. There is a table with a white table cloth, a red rose, and a candle for the MIA’s and POW’s.  

To help us understand the local impact on our community, every name of a Newton County citizen who has died in defense of our nation beginning with World War I will be read.  These are the same names carved on the memorial and found on the crosses displayed in front of Newton Federal.

We also honor on Memorial Day those that were willing to take those risks that could have placed their names on the Square.  This very special day is to declare that our freedom is a precious gift that all who have served have made possible for you and me.   May God bless our great nation.      

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