Starting summer off right this weekend

Five or six times when I was a teenager, I marched through the streets of Belmont on Memorial Day.

Along with the rest of the Union Local High School Marching Band, I made my way from the grade school to the cemetery with a clarinet or a saxophone in my hands. We played patriotic tunes along the way, then we stood silently in our ranks as ministers and veterans spoke about past military conflicts and those who perished in them.

We repeated the process in several area communities, marching to the middle of Bethesda, down Rock Hill near Flushing and at other locations on occasion.

I can’t speak for my fellow musicians, but I know I did not really comprehend what was happening at the various ceremonies we attended. I certainly was not as attentive and respectful as I would be today. For me at that age, Memorial Day was just my final obligation to perform with the band before summer began.

Sure, I appreciated the sacrifices that military men and women had made for our country over the centuries. My own dad, the late James Compston, had served in the U.S. Army during World War II. And at that time, my brother, Larry, and his then-wife were both serving in the U.S. Air Force.

Our family was fortunate — none of the relatives I had the opportunity to know died in during their time in the military. Therefore, I did not comprehend what Memorial Day actually means to so many American families who have lost loved ones to military service.

Therefore, I believe this weekend is the perfect time for adults to talk to younger people about the true meaning of Memorial Day. Explain that it is much more than a long weekend or an excuse to have a barbecue.

Instead, Memorial Day is a time to honor and remember those who laid down their lives as members of our armed forces. Without those sacrifices, we very well might not be able to enjoy the freedom and prosperity that we have today.

Nobody wants to spoil a summer holiday with too much talk of sacrifice and suffering, but clearly explaining the reason we must respect and remember those who died in military service may actually help young people gain a lot more from the speeches and sermons they hear.

I certainly think that I would have benefited from truly listening to all the wise words that were spoken as I stood there in military fashion at “parade rest,” waiting to move on to the next parade.

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Another, uniquely local Memorial Day weekend tradition that I have come to enjoy is the annual running of the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic.

Each year, on the Saturday before the holiday, hundreds of people take to the streets of Wheeling to complete one or more of the challenges associated with the event. Men, women and children of all ages turn out to run or walk the 13.1-mile half marathon course, or to take on the shorter 5K run or walk.

Folks who are 12 and younger can get in on the action by participate in the 1-mile Ogden Fun Run, and little ones age 5 and younger have the chance to hurl themselves down Water Street in the non-competitive Tiny Tot Trot.

This year, even more activities have been added to that slate of events to create the Ogden Wellness Weekend. I look forward to seeing how many people will ride in the 13th annual Ohio Valley Trail Partners Heritage Trail Bicycle Tour. The event pedals off from the waterfront at 8 a.m. today, with 10-, 30- and 62-mile rides to choose from.

Then, at noon today, the Tough as Nails Urban Challenge begins. This first-time event consists of a 6-mile, 20-obstacle course that is expected to test even the fittest competitors.

Participants will climbing hundreds of stairs, scale walls and complete all sorts of physical and endurance challenges.

While I definitely am not prepared to take part in this event, I expect that I will enjoy watching those who are in good enough shape strive to conquer each obstacle. It sounds to me like it will be Wheeling’s own version of something like the television show “American Ninja Warrior,” which I always enjoy.

If you don’t have plans today, come to downtown Wheeling and take in some of the action. In addition to watching people conquer obstacles and pedal their bikes for miles on end, you can enjoy the Recovery Party at Heritage Port, complete with a beer garden, other refreshments and live entertainment.

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Finally, just a reminder that wild animals, especially deer, are becoming parents at this time of year. My brother recently found a tiny fawn beneath a tree, waiting for its mother to return.

If you happen to come across newborn wildlife, remember that although these creatures may look cute and helpless, they probably don’t need your help. The best thing you can do for these young animals is leave them alone.