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Memorial Day holds somber meaning for millions

Posted at 5:33 PM, May 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-24 19:00:03-04

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, but the true meaning of the holiday should not be overlooked.

Families filled the 128th Air Refueling Wing Friday to welcome their loved ones home.

"It has been a long nine months, and I'm just so happy and proud of him," said Todd Zaeske, whose son Ian was among the returning Wisconsin National Guardsmen. "It has just phenomenal. It has fantastic."

This returning group of servicemen was on a mission in the Middle East.

"As we started flying into Milwaukee, my heart just started pounding and racing," said Ian Zaeske. "I'm still shaking. My emotions are all over the place right now. It was great to get a bear hug from my dad."

This Memorial Day weekend they'll be together, and that is a gift they don't take for granted.

"Remembering those that didn't come home, that's what Memorial Day is really about," Todd said. "I'm just so thankful that I have my soldier home, and I'm thankful for everyone that came before him, and I'm thankful for all those soldiers that didn't make it."

Memorial Day - always the last Monday of May - was created after the Civil War, as a way to honor those who died in service to our country. You don't say “happy” Memorial Day. It is a day of remembrance. Besides parades and ceremonies to recognize those heroes, the holiday has become synonymous with a long weekend, beaches, pools and cookouts.

But as the weekend starts with rain and cold temperatures, it's hard to find anyone outdoors.

"This weather is ridiculous," said Cornelius Holt. "I was all ready to barbecue, and this doesn't feel like barbecue weather at all."

"Are they doing weather experiments?" Beth Heinecamp joked. "It sure feels like it. Like, let's see what happens when we change the temperature 60 degrees or 40 degrees in a matter of hours or days."

We can't change the weather, but we can control our scenery. That's why a lot of people hit the road. In fact, AAA is forecasting a record amount of Memorial Day weekend travelers this year.

An estimated 37.6 million Americans will road-trip, and 3.5 million will fly somewhere.

If you're planning to drive, expect slightly lower gas prices.

You'll also want to be more aware while behind the wheel. Law enforcement knows it's a busy weekend, so there will be more patrols at all hours through Monday night.