Memorial Day: Remembering the reason - News, Weather & Sports

Memorial Day: Remembering the reason

Gaynell Zirnheld Gaynell Zirnheld
CPL Charles A. Smith (Source: Family photo) CPL Charles A. Smith (Source: Family photo)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - First observed 145 years ago on May 30, Memorial Day is celebrated these days by many people in many different ways. It was an emotional letter from a WAVE 3 viewer that had not only a few suggestions for the holiday, but a plea.

It is the last Monday in May and the unofficial start of summer. But for Gaynell Zirnheld and her family, it's not just the first weekend of summer. It is Memorial Day. It's the one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember, reflect, and honor those who have given their all in service to their country. People like Zirnherd's brother, Corporal Charles A. Smith, Third Battalion, First Marines, Kilo Company. Vietnam.

"I know to them he was a warrior but he was my brother," said Zirnheld. "He had just turned 20 six days before he was killed."

The date was February 28, 1968 - 45 years ago. For Zirnheld, it's always just a thought away, any day of the week, every day of the week.

"I was at school. I was in high school and they came to get me and when I got home my mother was sedated on the couch," said Zirnheld. "It's just something you never forget. It was just never the same in our home."

Zirnheld has noticed another change - the spirit of this national holiday.

"It's something I think is our solemn duty as Americans to do is to take this day and honor our fallen service men and women," said Zirnheld. "Have fun with your family, but please take a minute."

Take a minute for the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom and this country. When Congress made the day into a three day weekend with the National Holiday Act of 1971 some feel it also changed the celebration of the day and lots of attitudes from observant to nonchalant.

"When I look at that flag - every stitch, every stripe, every star - I know some of those men have either been wounded or have died fighting for this country," said Zirnheld.

With a pilot for a father, an uncle who saw action at Iwo Jima, her surviving brother an Army vet, her husband served in the Marines and her son although decades later in Kilo Company, the same platoon as her brother, Zirnheld wants you to enjoy the freedoms her family has fought so hard to protect.

"Just say a prayer for the fallen," said Zirnheld, "for the families that they left behind."

Since 1999, Zirnheld has spent each Memorial Day with the remaining men from the 2nd Platoon Kilo Company.

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