Local News

Americans honor sacrifice on this holiday

Posted May 30, 2011 6:13 a.m. EDT
Updated May 30, 2011 1:25 p.m. EDT

— All across the nation, Americans paused Monday to mark the memory of those who died fighting to our freedom. Hundreds gathered at the All-Veterans Memorial on the grounds of the state capitol in Raleigh Monday morning for a wreath-laying, patriotic music and speeches.

Memorial Day, for many so closely tied to the beginning of the summer vacation season, is in fact a somber holiday. It began after the Civil War in the South as Decoration Day, when local communities would honor their war dead. After World War I, it was renamed, and became a national holiday. President Bill Clinton, in an effort to restore some of the original meaning to a day marked by picnics and swimming pools, asked in 2000 for a "National Moment of Remembrance" at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day when all Americans should "remember and reflect on the sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all."

The meaning of the day is especially close to home in Fayetteville, a military community which has sent thousands of men and women into battle. More than 500 from Fort Bragg have died in service since 2001. The city celebrates for the entire month of May – 31 Days of Glory.

Ed Middleton, a survivor of the Battle of Bulge, was among the veterans laying wreaths Monday in honor of those who did not make it back.   

At Fort Bragg, the Special Forces Association honored six special forces soldiers killed in action in the past year and more than 100 association members who died during the course of the year with a ceremony at Special Ops Plaza.

"Memorial Day to me symbolizes what every American who has died for this country has done to help promote the freedoms that I have learned to grow up with and respect and have," said Marine Bruce Rakfeldt.

In Raleigh's Summerfield North neighborhood, sports mascots from the Durham Bulls, Mudcats and North Carolina State University Wolfpack were expected at the annual Memorial Day parade.

At Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh, Wake County Schools Superintendent Tony Tata will be the featured speaker at a 4 p.m. ceremony. Tata is a retired brigadier general.