Meaning of Memorial Day

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For many people, Memorial Day translates into a day off to spend with their families. For others, it's the unofficial start of summer.

But that's a far cry from the true solemn meaning, behind the holiday.

"I just know it's a day I don't have school. My dad says it's for our laborers that work, but I honestly don't know," said 16-year-old Cambria Allen of Sparks.

Well actually, that is Labor Day...not quite the same thing, but at least she tried. Her dad, on the other hand, who spent his afternoon arm-deep in barbecue sauce, was more on the right track.

"Kind of celebrating and waiting for my mother to show up. She lived in Pearl Harbor during World War II. We meet out here every year and I barbecue for her," said Tyler Allen.

Across town at the Sierra Memorial Gardens, a more somber celebration took place. Jean Wallace came to visit her deceased husband's grave. John Wallace served in the Air Force during World War II.

"He was a B-17 tail gunner and he worked real hard. He did a lot. I'm glad he is honored," said Wallace.

Others, like Army veteran Earl Walling, say the sea of flags honoring our fallen soldiers are only a that most people overlook.

"A lot of people in the military, no one really cares about them, other than their families, husbands, wives. The rest of the people go to the mall, they drink their beer, they have their parties. They don't care about the guys over there who are under fire."

Back at the Sparks Marina, where there wasn't a flag in sight, the meaning of Memorial Day was not entirely lost.

"It's kind of a tough day. I often think of my brother and what he didn't experience because of an early death," said Ruth Lawrence of Sparks.

She remembered her brother who died in World War II. She says she'd rather spend the day with family...than alone, mourning over the past.

"I think this is where we should be. We should be with each other."

Most historians say Memorial Day really started just after the Civil War, originally called "Decoration Day."

It was first observed on May 30th, 1968 when flowers were placed on the graves of union and confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

While the exact details of how the federal holiday evolved aren't completely clear, its purpose has remained constant...and that is, to honor those who have served in the military, and who risked their lives for our country.