The True Meaning of Memorial Day

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 

By: Sarah Smith

As a child, I can recall spending Memorial Day weekend with my grandparents.  And that weekend always ended with a trip to the cemetery where most of our relatives were buried.  I remember seeing the names of ancestors I had never met.  It was a time of honoring those who had gone on before us.

It wasn’t until I married into a military family that I understood the history behind Memorial Day My then fiancé took me by the National Cemetery in Fort Smith to show me where he proudly stood guard with the other high school ROTC members during the Memorial Day services.  His own grandfather was buried there and his father had served in the Navy.  He was very proud of his family history.  And, he was honored to carry on the tradition of proudly serving our country.  He was in ROTC throughout high school and college and became active in the US Army in 1988.


Memorial Day of 1989 was the first one in which I must say I truly ‘got it’.  I suddenly understood the sacrifice these men and women of the armed forces had made for our country.  I stood beside the grave of my husband, no headstone for it was too soon.  Memorial Day was no longer remembered as a three-day weekend spent with grandparents.  No, I was a young widow…barbecues and swimming were not on my mind.

DSC_0021Twenty-four years later, I will once again attend the Memorial Day service with my late-husband’s family in Fort Smith.  I will continue to honor him with this pilgrimage to where he is buried, and I will place the flowers on his grave as a way of thanking him for his service to our country.  I will also be hanging out with friends and family at a BBQ and there will be swimming, but everyone there will know the true significance of the weekend.  I’m not sharing this to be sad or depressing but to encourage you to teach your children what Memorial Day is truly about.  Do some research on-line, look for some patriotic crafts.  Buy a Poppy from the ladies in front of the grocery store.  Let’s not be the generation that forgets.


What to expect at a Memorial Day service:  There is usually patriotic music, many men and women in uniform and a speech or two.  If you have small children, it’s okay to just go for the beginning to hear the music and see the uniforms.  There is also a twenty-one gun salute so have them cover their ears if they are frightened by loud noises.  If you plan to stay for a while, bring a chair or a blanket.

Some services in the NW Arkansas Area:

  • Fort Smith National Cemetery: Sunday, May 26th at 2 pm 
  • Rogers Cemetery (510 South 10th Street): Monday, May 27th at 10 am
  • Fayetteville National Cemetery:   Monday, May 27th at 10 am
  • Bella Vista Cemetery:  Monday, May 27th at 10 am

(I’m sure there are more – watch the local papers for announcements.  You’ll find me at the first two listed.)

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