Our Voice: Be grateful, respectful for the fallen on Memorial Day

June 6 will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the day U.S. troops landed on the beaches of Normandy to protect France from a Nazi invasion. That victory decisively went to the Allied forces, but it was not without great cost. The first day alone, we lost more than 4,400 men.

A great many of us learned about D-Day in a history class. Some remember it as part of their life experience. Fewer and fewer actually were there when it happened.

Our population of WWII vets is aging and declining. The World War I vets all have died.

Whichever period of our history you exam, you have to consider the sacrifice made by the members of our military. That also is true today. Current events have put veterans and their after-service care at top of mind.

Monday is Memorial Day. Officially it commemorates the men and women who were called upon for the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, "Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday of May, commemorates the men and women who died while in the military service. In observance of the holiday, many people visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time."

A visit to a cemetery is a somber yet gratifying thing to do -- especially on Memorial Day. It gives you a chance to pause, reflect and remember. It's a part of the healing process.

In general, cemeteries are peaceful settings. On Memorial Day, however, they tend to be active with ceremonies and visitors, as well as colorful with flags and flowers.

One of our favorite spots in the Mid-Columbia to visit on Memorial Day is Sunset Memorial Gardens on the bypass highway in Richland because of its more than 1,000 full-size U.S. flags blowing in the breeze on that one day.

For a list of other Memorial Day remembrances, see Monday's paper.

On Memorial Day we also remember and celebrate those who served in our military.

Officially, Memorial Day is different than Veterans Day, although both give us a reason to be grateful for those who have served our country.

And it certainly is appropriate to thank our vets every day, not just when the calendar gives us an official day to do so.

So on Memorial Day -- and every day -- we remember and thank you.