Memorial Day: For many people, it's the holiday that serves to kick off the warm, sunny days of summer - the culmination of a long weekend spent enjoying barbecues, pontoon rides around the lake, family get-togethers, graduation parties.

But for those who serve in the military, and their families and friends, it means much more, as Detroit Lakes Mayor Matt Brenk alluded to in his welcoming address at the community's Memorial Day program on Monday morning.

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"Memorial Day is the official day when our nation stops to honor Americans who died while defending our freedoms," he said. "It was established to promote reconciliation and coming together to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice. But sadly over the years, the meaning of Memorial Day has somewhat diminished - many Americans forgetting its most important traditions.

"To some, Memorial Day is just another holiday weekend, but we in Detroit Lakes have never forgotten, and today, we come together to honor those who served and died for our freedoms," he added. "I am very proud that our city has chosen to honor our veterans by creating, improving and maintaining those parks in our city dedicated to them and their service to all of us. My hope is that those parks be a constant reminder to honor our veterans, who put aside their personal lives, their families, their education, to go out and fight to protect the freedoms that we all hold so dear... Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to personally thank our veterans here in Detroit Lakes and Becker County for their devotion and dedication to our country, and to honor those who died for our liberties."

"We have two national holidays that honor our military members," said keynote speaker retired Minnesota National Guard Sgt. Major Brad Olsen. "Today glistens to me as the more important of the two. There's Veterans Day, where all service members are honored, and there's Memorial Day, where those that have fallen are honored - and those are our biggest heroes, they really are.

"We are here to honor those deceased service members... to remember their achievements, their courage, and their adaptation, and to say thank you for their sacrifices," he continued. "A person should feel awed by the enormity of what we've come here for today.

"The service members that we honor came from all walks of life, and they all shared fundamental qualities that they each possessed - courage, pride, determination, selflessness, dedication to duty, and integrity. Those qualities service a cause that's larger than oneself. These are regular people - regular Joes, regular Janes. They're not congressmen, they're not senators, they're not presidents... they're your sons, your daughters, your cousins, your friends. They have given of themselves, for something larger than themselves - for their country, for you, for me... they rose to the nation's call because they wanted to protect a nation that has given them, given us, so much."

Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary member Leatrice Wirtz also spoke briefly during the ceremony, referencing the Avenue of Flags display out at Oak Grove Cemetery, stating that "each flag represents a fallen soldier, who will be forever in our hearts and will never be forgotten."

"We give them honor, we give them respect, and we give them thanks - many thanks."