This weekend, people around the Chagrin Valley will celebrate, remember and honor.

Memorial Day weekend is a time for picnics, parades and gatherings like the annual Blossom Time fest in Chagrin Falls. It’s the end of the academic year and the start of the summer vacation season with the anticipation of warmer weather and freedom for young people to explore and discover.

Some will step into a time warp of sorts as they head to the annual Civil War reenactment at the Geauga Historical Society’s Century Village Museum grounds in Burton this weekend. Re-enactors in period dress are sure to help us learn about an era that shaped our nation.

Most importantly, Memorial Day is a time when we remember members of the military of all wars and conflicts in our country’s history.

Through the weekend, and especially on Monday, we will honor those who selflessly gave their lives to our country to preserve and protect our freedom and our way of life. We continue to embrace customs of decorating graves of fallen warriors, holding services to honor their memories and hearing moving speeches from current or retired members of the military. They remind us that no sacrifice is too great when protecting our Constitution.

But we are seeing some changes in the traditional Memorial Day ceremonies. The women and men who have been central to conducting and attending the services and other events are aging. Some organizers are working harder to find veterans who can be color guards, perform the gun salutes, play taps or be in the parades. As Aurora American Legion Post 803 Commander Earl Court told the Times, “We are all older.” About five of the 78 post members plan to attend ceremonies in Bainbridge and Aurora. They can still perform some of the rituals, he said, but they are aged and unable to march in a parade.

The Geauga County Veterans Services Commission says that the majority of groups in the county that usually plan observances do not have enough volunteers for a color guard, a traditional part of the services.

Local organizers say most of the core participants over the past decades have been veterans of World War II and the Korean conflict who mostly served from the 1930s to the 1950s. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says that of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII, only about 496,000 were still living in late 2018.

Vietnam veteran Bill O’Neill of the Chagrin Valley said some younger vets aren’t interested in participating in the activities of these groups. John Bourisseau of American Legion Post 383 in Chagrin Falls said if the current trend continues, cities and villages may have to take on the responsibility of planning Memorial Day observances.

That may happen sooner than we anticipate. As Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a-changin’.” But it is important that the observances continue so that every American is reminded of the sacrifices members of the military have made, whether it was decades ago or last week. Perhaps it’s time for every one of us to take part in a Memorial Day observance. We must appreciate the cost of our rights and way of life. As many wise people before us have said, freedom is not free.

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