The Rockwall Terry Fisher Post 117 of the American Legion hosted an interactive youth activity at Founders Day last weekend, allowing kids to recreate a fun version of the experience of landing a Higgins boat on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

Post Commander Mark Kipphut, himself a United States Air Force veteran, said that the proximity of Founders Day to Memorial Day each year is a great opportunity to come up with these fun activities for kids to engage with American history. Last year, the Legion post set up a replica of a World War I trench in honor of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

“Along the way somewhere, Memorial Day became synonymous with the first day of summer,” Kipphut said. “But in the last several years, and especially since 2001, I think the nation as really gotten back to the original meaning of the day.

Memorial Day originally began in the nineteenth century U.S. as a holiday known as “Decoration Day,” on which people would adorn the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers.

Kipphut said that Memorial Day stands out among the American patriotic holidays as uniquely geared towards honoring the fallen, remembering their sacrifices and remembering their families.

“Memorial Day is more somber than the other holidays,” Kipphut said. “And it’s even different than Veteran’s Day, and has a much deeper meaning. It’s all about those who have made the ‘supreme sacrifice.’ We approach the day with a heavy heart, but understand that their sacrifices have secured the things we cherish – our families, our freedom and our country.”

Kipphut also said that Memorial Day is especially important to members of the American Legion, a nationwide veteran organization.

“In the preamble to the American Legion constitution, it says that we are specifically devoted to preserving the ‘memories and incidents’ of American veterans and their involvement in war,” Kipphut said, “so we focus a lot on Memorial Day.”

Kipphut added that he, personally, has many fallen servicemembers – “too many” – on his heart this Memorial Day.

“The amazing thing is how ordinary people can become incredibly heroic in the right circumstances.”