Because of a lesson I was taught a long time ago, some things have become second nature. A wise man once told me many thousand times over, someone who never knew me did something that befitted me. Although I knew exactly what he meant, his final words from that lesson never left me.

“So, you know what to do,” was all he said.

He was right. I knew exactly.

There have been several instances in which I could see the direct correlation of the kindness, duty, sacrifice and charity of others to a benefit to me. Memorial Day always has been a time to reflect on my good fortune because of the ultimate sacrifice of others who never knew me. Of course, and to partake in the frivolities a three-day weekend might bring.

Because of the unrelenting pandemic, this year’s Memorial Day is going to be different. Our tradition has been altered. This year, the day won’t signal the kickoff to our summer holiday and travel season. We will not be able to congregate in large numbers to celebrate as we wish. We won’t be traveling in force. We won’t be capitalizing on our river with more than one friend or family member or enjoying the many other opportunities it offers. Things really have changed.

Fortunately, there is one thing that didn’t change. Because the Kankakee County Veterans Council and several wonderful volunteers decided some things are too important to change, the Memorial Day 2020 flag placement was completed in typical fashion. Other than wearing face coverings, nothing else about the event was new. The manner in which flag placement teams always have operated, social distancing was the norm long before it became cool or mandated or even termed “social distancing.”

However, there was a brief moment of personal trepidation. The thought did occur that what we were doing, although it was absolutely right, could in some way also have been illegal. The thought was fleeting because no American need worry about negative repercussions for doing the right thing.

Recalling those words from more than 50 years ago, I knew what to do. As did familiar and new faces that showed up and began the two-day task of honoring those who did something from which we all have benefited.

The weather cooperated, providing plenty of sunshine and pleasant temperatures. As flags were placed on the graves of each service man and woman, the magnitude of the ages, names, ranks, branches of service, wars and conflicts could not be ignored.

While this year certainly will test our resolve and alter tradition, hopefully a special moment of reflection will be given to a “someone” or hundreds of thousands of “someones” who never knew you but did something special for your benefit. In particular, while we are contemplating on some liberties this pandemic has led us to hopefully and only temporarily surrender, it should not go unnoticed how we initially achieved those liberties.

Should you have the opportunity to venture out this weekend and notice the thousands of flags adorning the local cemeteries, may you recall the popular phrase associated with Memorial Day, “All gave some; some gave all,” and be reminded that everyone gained.

Again, thank you to the Kankakee County Veterans Council and all the volunteers. The message and lesson were loud and clear. Not even a pandemic can change our tradition of expressing gratitude and reflecting on the ultimate sacrifice made by so many that we may enjoy our unparalleled freedoms and livelihood.

Happy Memorial Day, everyone. May you be reflective, appreciative, safe and sane.

Ron Jackson can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily.com

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