Editorial: Be safe on Memorial Day and remember why it's a holiday

We would like to offer a few reminders on the day before Memorial Day to help keep you safe and to stress the importance of the holiday.

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. In a welcome change, it looks like the weather is cooperating, meaning there will be numerous outdoor gatherings of friends and families. Have fun, but be mindful, too, of inherent danger. For example, foodborne illness increases during the summer months because bacteria multiply faster in warmer temperatures and preparing food outdoors, such as on the grill, can make handling food safely more difficult.


Regarding grilling, there are nearly 10,000 home fires involving grills each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Keep your grill clean and remove any grease or fat buildups, make sure the grill is place far enough away from the house, any deck railings or other items that may catch fire, and if you’re using a propane grill — possibly for the first time in months — make sure to tighten any hoses and check for potential leaks.

If you have a swimming pool, never leave young children unattended in or near water. If you’re going to be outdoors for an extended period of time, don’t forget the sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher. And lay off the fireworks. This isn’t the Fourth of July, and fireworks set off by amateurs is never a good idea.

Also, be careful on the roads. According to AAA, more than 800,000 Marylanders will be traveling throughout the holiday weekend. With the extra traffic, according to a Maryland State Police news release, troopers will be focusing enforcement efforts on impaired driving, aggressive driving, speeding, distracted driving and other violations that often contribute to highway tragedies. Last Memorial Day weekend, troopers conducted 7,496 traffic stops, made 121 DUI arrests, 40 criminal arrests and 66 warrant arrests while issuing 1,840 speeding citations. Troopers also responded to 371 crashes, including two that involved fatalities.

The most important reminder of all, of course, is to keep in mind exactly what Memorial Day is all about. Sure, everyone loves the three-day weekend and the chance to spend time together, but it isn’t a celebration. It isn’t even a time to honor our veterans, although please feel free to do that anytime.

Memorial Day is a solemn recognition of those who didn’t live to become veterans. A time to remember those who died fighting for our country, keeping us safe, freeing other nations, serving to protect our way of life.

Carroll County always does a nice job of honoring the fallen and this weekend is no exception. On Saturday, at the nearly 200-year-old Springfield Cemetery in Sykesville, a new memorial created by Scouts was dedicated. The ceremony included the recitation of the names of the more than 120 veterans who were laid to final rest there.

Today, the Pleasant Valley community will honor Memorial Day in the way it has done for more than 100 years — by gathering at St. Matthew’s United Church of Christ and making the half-mile walk to the Pleasant Valley Cemetery for a ceremony. In fact, numerous churches, VFW posts and American Legions are holding ceremonies today and Monday.

That includes Westminster’s Memorial Day Parade. It starts at Pennsylvania Avenue — as it has for more than 150 years — at 10 a.m. on Monday, travels down and up Main Street to Church Street, culminating in a ceremony at the Westminster Cemetery.

As we do each year, we encourage everyone to take a few minutes to reflect and honor the fallen. Whether it is by attending a ceremony or simply taking a few moments, silently, please remember to recognize and give thanks to those who died fighting for our freedoms.