Memorial Day is a national holiday that is observed throughout the U.S. on May 29.  As stated by the United States Census Bureau, the date was officially declared a federal holiday in 1971 to act as a day of remembrance for those who died in military service. The National Memorial Day Concert of 2023 is held in Washington D.C. where millions of Americans have the opportunity to watch a performance dedicated to these selfless individuals. Nevertheless, the true gravity of this momentous day may not become heightened until having personally served in the United States Armed Forces. 

“I think my perspective has changed dramatically. I come from a military family. My father served in the Navy, and I have always been patriotic. However, I can remember that in high school I was often as excited about having a day off as being compelled to consider the ‘why’ of why do we have this day off?,” Naples High alumni and veteran Scott Sigmond said. “As you become more aware of how great this Republic, this Great American Experiment, actually is and understand that it was built due to the sacrifices and heroics of young men and women not much older than a high school senior, it is really remarkable. It is moving for me to consider the young men I had the privilege to serve with that lost their lives that really makes this an emotional day of remembrance.” 

There are many ways in which residents of Collier County can honor the significant occasion. For instance, the Naples High’s JROTC participated in a ceremony hosted by the Collier County Veterans Council at the Naples Memorial Garden in past years. If not possible to attend, residents can partake in activities from their own homes. 

“Fly your U.S. flag if you own one,” Master Sergeant Dale Eaton said. “It shows the appreciation we have for the people that died for us.”

Memorial Day is a holiday that people of all demographics can partake in. The age of an individual should not inhibit them from honoring those who have fallen during military service. The various Memorial Day events found throughout the community are available to every resident, but individuals must also remain conscious of the purpose behind the activities. 

“I think high school students aren’t dissimilar from anyone else regarding their observance of Memorial Day. You can get involved in any of the many local events and public services, Sigmond said. “However, I also think you should enjoy your day off of school but also take a moment to consider the magnitude of the sacrifice that people, not much older than you are all now, have given for this country. I think remembering that is enough.”

Freedom is a word that is commonly used to express the importance of Memorial Day. People who lost their lives in the armed forces did so in order to ensure that American citizens would live in a country without tyranny and oppression. By sacrificing their lives, others can live in a protected democratic society. 

“A lot of people fought and died for everyone’s freedom that we have,” Eaton said. “We’re not held down like some countries, whether it be their government holding down or other countries. All those people fought for our freedom, and they died for it.”

People often confuse the reason behind the observance of Memorial Day with Veterans Day. Although similarities exist between the two federal holidays, it is essential to recognize the distinct differences between the separate occasions. These differences contribute to a greater understanding of how the country can operate the way it does, as well as the value of each. 

“While both are important in celebrating current and former members of the armed forces, Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans. Memorial Day is a remembrance of those whose lives were lost in service to their country,” Sigmond said. “All members of the armed forces, those serving and those having served in the past, are due some gratitude for the sacrifices they have made in the course of their service, but none so great as those who lost their lives in their service to this country. Recognizing these sacrifices as an American citizen lets people openly reflect on the fact that the freedoms that we may take for granted were actually bought at a very high and personal cost.”