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Staff Writer

PEPPERELL — Apparently taking a cue from the patriotism displayed by the 150-odd residents standing at the war memorial in front of the Community Church, Rep. Robert Hargraves called for a “return to the true meaning” of the Memorial Day holiday by making it a single day, May 30, the one recognized in Massachusetts regardless of which day of the week it falls upon.

As did Selectman Lyndon Johnson before him, Hargraves asked the crowd to think about the 4,100 lives lost in the war against terrorism, the thousands of maimed servicemen and women trying to put their lives back together, and the generations of Americans before them who died so freedom can live when they listen to the gunfire salute of the VFW firing team and the rendering of Taps.

Hargraves reminded them that although the laying of flowers on the graves of Civil War soldiers began as Decoration Day in Waterloo, N.Y., in May 1886, it wasn’t until 1967 that the significance of the day was broadened to recognize those who died in World War II.

Memorial Day became a “long weekend” in 1973 by act of Congress which, he said, now means parties, cookouts and get-aways.

The holiday has lost its solemnity of purpose, Hargraves said. Service members “deserve to be remembered. That’s the least we can do,” he said to hearty applause.

He also lauded recently passed legislation that establishes a 19-member commission to study post deployment care for local soldiers and first responders.

Hargraves later visited the VFW post home on Leighton Street where he privately reaffirmed his intent to approach legislative leadership with his May 30 one-day Memorial Day proposal.