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Sponsored content: The meaning of Memorial Day

All too often around Memorial Day we tend to forget exactly why the holiday was created - to honor those American men and women who died during combat. The holiday, instituted in 1866 after the Civil War, was first known as Decoration Day. It was set aside to remember both Union and Confederate soldiers alike.

By the 1880s, the holiday came to be known officially as Memorial Day. A federal mandate in 1971 set the observance on the last Monday of May, creating a three-day holiday weekend for many to enjoy an extra day to kick off the beginning of summer. This has caused some confusion by the general public over what the holiday really means.

To put it simply, Memorial Day is for the American troops who didn’t get to come back home. They died in the field of combat, returning instead under solemn circumstances inside flag-draped coffins. Veteran’s Day and Armed Forces Day, by contrast, honor those who have served or are still serving in the military. On those days we should reach out to veterans and current military members to thank them for their service to our great nation. Memorial Day is reserved to honor those Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice and to the families and friends who have been left behind.

To honor them, fly your American flags at half-staff until noon on Monday, May 28, and remember those who didn’t come home.

Have you served in the military? You may be eligible for benefits from the Veterans Benefits Administration. The VA offers a wide variety of benefits and services to veterans. Eligibility for most VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Active military service means full-time service, other than active duty for training, as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or as a commissioned officer in a number of governmental agencies.

Through the GI Bill, veterans are provided educational benefits that may include apprenticeship, vocational rehabilitation and employment counseling. The GI Bill also provides veterans the benefit of using a low down payment VA home loan to purchase a house.

Other benefits such as health care, compensation and pensions are dependent on the time and length of service and service-related disabilities. Eligibility can be determined by a veteran’s service officer and by completing a financial assessment.

To see if you qualify for VA benefits, visit your local veteran’s service officer.

•Idaho County: Camden Schacher / Idaho County Courthouse, Room 29/ Grangeville / 208-983-0239

•Lewis County: Michelle Lyons / 510 Oak St, Room 1 / Nezperce / 208-937-9248

• Nez Perce Tribe: Mary Taylor / 271 B St / Lapwai / 208-621-4738

•Office of Veterans Advocacy (Lewiston) / 821 21st Ave / Lewiston / 208-750-3978

•Idaho County Veterans Outreach / 318 E Main / Grangeville / 208-983-9387

Read more about the Veterans Administration eligibility and benefits at www.va.gov.

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