On Memorial Day, 2009, at 3:00 p.m., the most important thing going on in downtown Lexington was the start of the bike race associated with Bike Lexington. Lexington closed down its streets all day long for this event. During the day, our city officials spoke to the crowds and participated in the events. It’s been said that “we are well on our way to becoming the healthiest and most bicycle-friendly city in Kentucky.” I know there are many that are proud of this accomplishment. The organizers of this event purposefully moved the Bike Lexington event to Memorial Day this year to take advantage of the Bluegrass Cycling Club’s 32nd annual Horsey Hundred tour. 1,700 cyclists from across the nation came to ride the Central Kentucky countryside this weekend.
A group of us decided to take advantage of “car-free downtown” and walk in honor of our fallen heroes between the hours of 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM when the streets were open to walkers, riders, skaters, and strollers. We are all participating in STEPS to HONOR, an awareness program that honors our military, law enforcement, and firefighters, including veterans, those currently serving, and our Fallen.
A few minutes before 3:00 PM, our group gathered together to participate in the National Moment of Remembrance established by an act of Congress in December, 2000, to honor those who have died in service to our country. In case you haven’t heard of it, P.L. 106-579, “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” asks Americans to pause at 3:00 PM local time on Memorial Day each year. Major league baseball games come to a stop, Amtrak train whistles blow across the country and countless participants nationwide pause for the National Moment of Remembrance. This moment of reflection and rededication allows us to give something back to our country in memory of our nation’s Fallen. When we honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, we are also honoring those who have served and those currently serving.
A Gallop poll recently revealed that only 28% of Americans know the meaning of this noble holiday we call Memorial Day. I find that shocking, but what I am about to tell you will convince you that sometimes the pollsters know their stuff.
Our group gathered at the Courthouse Plaza where the tents, tables, and live music for Bike Lexington were set up. It was time for the next bike race. The announcer called for everyone to prepare for the start of the race and the racers lined up. We stood quietly on the beautifully maintained Courthouse Plaza, just across the street from the Fallen Officers Memorial at Phoenix Park. As we waited for the clock to strike the hour of 3:00 PM, the crowd became unusually quiet. Bells rang in the distance signaling the arrival of the hour, and the announcer, with everyone’s attention, gave the call to start the race.
We realized at that moment, that not even a mention of our heroes, their sacrifices, or a moment of silence had occurred. I was surprised by this because I was actually reminded about the National Moment of Remembrance by an email forward I received from someone in our state government last week. With our city so involved in the planning of Bike Lexington, I couldn’t understand how they could have forgotten to plan for this moment of silence. The irony in this situation is that the announcer had everyone’s attention and the crowd was completely quiet at exactly 3:00 PM. The perfect opportunity was presented to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and teach those in the crowd of the importance of this annual holiday weekend.
Needless to say, our group continued on. We prayed for the families of our Fallen and took a few moments to honor these brave souls. Gathered in our group of Lexington citizens we had a Marine veteran, the daughter of a Navy veteran, two parents of a deployed soldier serving in Afghanistan, four Marine parents, two parents of a deployed Marine, and two parents of a Marine who is now under care at the Wounded Warrior Regiment East at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Each of us was able to stand there and say with grateful hearts that we have not lost one of our own, but each of us has walked our sons through the loss of friends who have made the ultimate sacrifice and this Memorial Day means something to us.
Our children are deployed and they are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for me and for you. We wait anxiously, praying that we don’t ever receive the knock on the door from the Marines in their Dress Blues. The lives of our children, as well as ours, are forever changed because these men chose to serve. Our lives are changed because we finally have an understanding of what Memorial Day really means.
Memorial Day is not the first day of summer or the day the swimming pool opens. Memorial Day is not the day the block busters hit the theaters. Memorial Day is the day that we set aside to honor those that have died in service to our country. If that honor is not the main focus of all events that take place on Memorial Day, then I say we just stop setting aside the day and get back to work. Memorial Day is not just for the families of the Fallen. It is for all of us. We have all benefited from the ultimate sacrifice made by our Fallen and we need to teach this important concept to all the generations that follow us, first learning this lesson ourselves.
There is nothing wrong with having Bike Lexington on Memorial Day, but the organizers of the event should have taken the time to fulfill P.L. 106-579, National Moment of Remembrance, established by Congress.
Do you know how many veterans and military families we have right here in Lexington? At any given time, there are hundreds of Kentucky National Guard soldiers deployed. We have a USMC Reserve Unit as well as an Army Reserve Unit right here in Lexington. We have countless active duty military who call Lexington “home” serving right now.
We don’t need a military base in our town to be an important part of the military fabric of this country. Most of us have a Kentucky National Guard family living right under our noses. As you read this, that family is trying to survive a deployment. Most of us are so busy running to Fayette Mall that we haven’t even noticed that they are on their own for a year. We’ve got people of all walks of life standing up for their rights, but never stopping for a second to be grateful for those that have given them these rights. There is more in our local news about pets than there will ever be about our veterans. There is something seriously wrong with the way we think around here.
Next year, I hope the city of Lexington and the organizers of Bike Lexington will remember to honor those that have given all so we can live the American Dream. It will only delay the race by sixty seconds. Sixty seconds! If you were the one making the ultimate sacrifice would your life be worth a mere sixty seconds of silence once a year? I think it would be worth at least sixty seconds. Let’s do the right thing in the future.