Next week, citizens across the United States will gather to honor Memorial Day. For many, this weekend marks the start of summer and the opportunity to gather with friends, family and neighbors. However, and more importantly, it marks a time to remember the sacrifices that American soldiers have made so that we may enjoy our liberty and freedom. Memorial Day is the time when our country stops to honor that sacred sacrifice made by the fallen men and women who died bravely serving our country and your freedom. Historically, the first observance of Memorial Day began after the Civil War as a way to honor the hundreds of thousands of Americans who perished in that war. By May 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of Union veterans, established Decoration Day as the day to decorate the graves of those who died with flowers. The date of May 30 was chosen because many believed that flowers would be in full bloom and could be used as decorations. The first large observance of this holiday took place that year at Arlington National Cemetery. Surprisingly, it was not until 1971 that Congress would officially declare Memorial Day to be a national holiday and the date was moved from May 30 to the last Monday in May. Today, our nation commemorates our veterans by placing a small American flag on each grave at the Arlington National Cemetery. Closer to home, many of us participate in Memorial Day events by marching in or attending parades, decorating the graves of loved ones who served our country, attending church and religious services and remembering our veterans' sacrifices. If you and your family would like to attend a parade or service in our area to honor our veterans, please consider one of the following: Sunday, May 27 Seymour Parade \u2014 Begins at French Memorial Park, ends at Seymour Community Center at 11:30 a.m. Monroe Parade \u2014 Begins at Elm St. and Route 111 and ends at Town Hall Green at 2 p.m. Shelton Service \u2014 Begins at 7:30 p.m. at Derby High School. Monday, May 28 Shelton Parade \u2014 Begins at 9 a.m.Howe Avenue in Shelton, ends in Derby. Seymour Services \u2014 Casting of Navy Wreath at Bank Street Bridge at 9:00 a.m., followed by Memorial Service at Veterans Grove at French Park, 10 a.m. Lordship Service \u2014 Begins at 11 a.m. on Lordship Center Green. Stratford Service \u2014 Begins at 1 p.m. at the War Memorial at Academy Hill Stratford Parade \u2014 Begins on Main St. and ends at Paradise Green at 2:15 p.m. Memorial Day is an important day to stop and reflect upon the service of our veterans and in particular, the service of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. All too often we take our way of life, our rights and privileges for granted as if they could never be lost. Yet there are loyal and dedicated service men and women who defend America and her liberties on a daily basis so that we may live in peace. Some of those men and women, unfortunately, do not come home and the pain and loss to those families can never be fully repaid. But a grateful nation can take time out of our hectic lives to properly focus on that sacrifice and honor that sacrifice in a sobering and appreciative way. Memorial Day is that day to focus and honor those veterans. Let us never forget that freedom is not free. Sen. Kevin Kelly represents the 21st District, which includes all of Shelton, most of Stratford, and parts of Monroe and Seymour.