Yukon salutes fallen soldiers the right way

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Sometimes I think we need to take a step back and remember why we observe (and not necessarily celebrate) certain holidays.

Memorial Day on Monday is a great example.

Many people see the Memorial Day weekend simply as the “unofficial” start of summer. A time to gather for backyard cookouts and to enjoy the sun and suds on a boat at one of our great Oklahoma lakes.

But Memorial Day should have a much deeper meaning to anyone who enjoys the freedom we have today as citizens of these United States.

For this federal holiday’s roots are traced back to the 1860s when people would gather to honor Civil War soldiers who died in battle and visit cemeteries to decorate their graves with flowers. For many decades, the observance was known as “Decoration Day” and “Remembrance Day.”

“Memorial Day” did not become the more common name until after World War II and it was the late 1960s before it became an official federal holiday.

Memorial Day commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in military service.

Today, this federal holiday is a time for us to honor all veterans and active members of the U.S. Armed Services.

On Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is flown at half-staff from dawn until noon to honor those who died while ensuring that we can live free. In Yukon, volunteers place U.S. flags on all veterans’ graves.

Many businesses offer veterans and U.S. military personnel free meals and discounts for this Memorial Day observance.

While many U.S. citizens focus on social activities each Memorial Day, we must look at the last Monday in May as a time of remembrance.

We are fortunate in Yukon to have an active American Legion, Daughters of the American Revolution and Yukon Historical Society that remembers those who made the supreme sacrifice.

Again this year was an annual Memorial Day ceremony at the Yukon Veterans Memorial near the front entrance to the Yukon Cemetery. Volunteers took turns reading aloud the names of the more than 1,300 U.S. military veterans buried at the cemetery.

It is an important, solemn service that helps attendees appreciate the many great men and women who have served and fought for our freedoms.

I only wish more people would participate and see what an important event this is for Yukon.

When the annual Memorial Day ceremony began in Yukon after the Veterans Memorial was dedicated in the mid-’90s, about 550 veterans were honored.

Today, an estimated 1,350 veterans are buried in our local cemetery. They represent all armed services from all wars and conflicts.

American Legion Post 160, headed by Commander Eddie McFadden, are commended for their efforts this Memorial Day weekend to present Monday morning’s program and to distribute the traditional poppies.

We also should thank John and Carol Knuppel of the Yukon Historical Society, who for many years have kept the list of veterans’ names that have been inscribed on the Veterans Memorial monument. The Knuppels have done a great job making sure an accurate list was constantly updated, and they secured funds needed to buy two new memorial stones after space on the existing stones ran out.

The two new stones are expected to arrive soon with space for 400 more names. Our Veterans Memorial is a great tribute to the men and women who served our country. The work of the Yukon Historical Society and Yukon’s American Legion help us remember our fallen heroes not just on Memorial Day – but throughout the year.

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The “Oklahoma Standard” is alive and well in Canadian County after a devastating EF-3 tornado struck down in El Reno last Saturday. Two fatalities were reported, several dozen people were injured and others were left homeless after the twister ripped through a motel and mobile home park near Highway 81 and Highway 66.

Individuals, churches, civic groups, and businesses across Yukon are being enlisted to help their neighbors to the west.

Pam Shelton, CEO of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, encourages businesses to contact her at pshelton@yukoncc.com to “get the word out” about how they are supporting El Reno tornado victims.

Yukon’s Pets & People Humane Society helped animals in crisis after the El Reno tornado, providing vet care to injured animals, helping reunite animals with their families and placing lost animals in “foster” homes.

Like so many others, the local humane society answered the call for help.

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This will be the annual “Alumni Weekend” for Yukon High School graduates. All YHS alumni are invited to participate, by playing in the golf tournament at Crimson Creek in El Reno, attending the evening banquet at the YHS cafeteria and enjoying “after-parties” with their graduating classes.

The reunion events are a great way for YHS alums to “reconnect” with old friends and classmates they haven’t seen in many years. It’s also an opportunity to make new friends.