One hundred years and one day ago, my great-grandmother stepped into a voting booth for the first time to exercise her newly granted right to help choose the leaders of our nation. She was always around of being there that November, and voting was a lifetime habit she maintained until shortly before her passing. She passed that pride along to her daughter, my grandmother, and to her granddaughter, my mother. As the fourth generation to exercise that right, I do so faithfully, but I feel particularly connected to her this year, knowing I walk in her footsteps. I also walk in the footsteps of the other great-grandmother whom I never knew, who marched for the vote. If I didn’t cast my ballot, I suspect I’d receive a nocturnal visit and a firm talking to.
One tradition I have for myself on Memorial Day is returning to the letter written by Major Sullivan Ballou of the Union Army, dated July 14, 1861. If you've seen Ken Burn's superb documentary sereies, The Civil War, you've heard the letter read at the end of the first episode. Memorial Day is a time to remember those who put duty above life and personal happiness, who sacrificed themselves for the sake of others.
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"...The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more."