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Editorial: Salute those who served

Summer starts sooner than ever this year. The official first day may be June 21, the summer solstice, but many Midwesterners launch their summer activities with Memorial Day and the long weekend.

The national observance is the last Monday of the month, which happens to be May 25 this year. Memorial Day can't come any earlier than that.

Of course, Memorial Day isn't about summer. This is the day our nation honors the men and women who died while in military service.

Enacted after the Civil War to honor Union soldiers as the nation reunified, that first Memorial Day was Decoration Day May 30, 1868.

"We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance," the original order reads. "All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners."

And pleasant are our local cemeteries and riverside parks. Area residents, cemetery caretakers and volunteers have spent hours upon hours in recent weeks raising flags, cutting grass and planting flowers to prepare for Monday's services.

Memorial Day gradually expanded to include all departed veterans. The roll call grows each year as veterans who survived the various conflicts succumb to illnesses and old age.

We hope all their memories, whether as fresh as today's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or as old as World War II, never fade. And that happen won't as long as family, friends and living veterans from all wars remind us of the sacrifice.

Salute them as you freely go about your activities Memorial Day and throughout the summer.