War gives this Memorial Day extra special meaning for some

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Some young people are saying Memorial Day this year meant more to them than cookouts and trips to the swimming pool.
The war in Iraq has brought home the significance of the holiday that honors members of the U.S. military who died serving their country.
"People would be surprised at how many kids do understand," said Alex Connor of Liberty Township in Delaware County, who turns 19 next month.
Across the state, Ohioans gathered Monday for annual parades and cemetery services to remember lost loved ones and military members killed in service.
Connor and a classmate played "Taps" at a ceremony Sunday at St. Charles Preparatory School in Columbus.
Dustin Schick, the other trumpeter, said the holiday has become more relevant for his generation because of the war in Iraq.
"Some of our friends have been called to serve," said Schick, an 18-year-old senior from Whitehall in suburban Columbus. "Some recent graduates from St. Charles are over there. It makes Memorial Day take on a whole new meaning."
A group of Upper Arlington High School freshmen sounded a similar theme when asked what Memorial Day means to them.
"There's more meaning now that we're involved in Iraq," said Annalisa Boerner, 15. "Young people are more affected because young people are dying. It's not your daddy's or grandfather's war anymore."
Memorial Day also holds a deeper meaning for people with loved ones serving overseas in the military and those with relatives killed in the war.
The death toll for the U.S. military in Operation Iraqi Freedom stood at 162 as of Monday. Nearly half were under age 25, according to the Department of Defense.
The family of 23-year-old Army Pfc. Marlin Rockhold, who was shot and killed as he directed traffic in Baghdad earlier this month, planned to visit his grave Monday in Hamilton in southwest Ohio.
"For the first time in my life, I truly understand the significance of Memorial Day," said Rockhold's uncle, Lew Henderson of Hamilton.
The family continued their annual tradition of placing flowers at relatives' graves, followed by a barbecue.
Several students enrolled in an Ohio State University course on World War II said their studies of military history, combined with current events, have prompted them to look at Memorial Day in a different light.
Sarah Ryan, 21, a junior from Cincinnati, said she was moved while interviewing a World War II veteran for the class.
"I have a newfound respect for those who have served and the sacrifices they made," she said. "It made me realize how much I take for granted."
Kathryn Gerke of Powell, a Columbus suburb, asked members of a support-group she formed to create personalized Memorial Day booklets for soldiers. More than 40 people participated, filling a page with thoughts about loved ones and the holiday.
Each person then made 50 copies of the page and the booklets were assembled.
Some pages are handwritten missives while others feature neatly typed poems. Others display color copies of photographs of soldiers and their families.
"What an awesome idea," said Carol Pirnat of Worthington, who signed her page "Proud Marine Mom."
She plans to give the booklet to her son, Kyle J. Pirnat, a first lieutenant in the Marines stationed in Iraq since January.
Gerke plans give her booklet to her 20-year-old son, Patrick, a lance corporal in the Marines who served in Iraq and now is in Kuwait waiting to ship out.
In Hamilton, a senior citizens group that sent letters to nearly 400 soldiers during the war has been receiving thank you notes from their families.
One mother said her son told her he felt blessed to have people praying for him. "People like you have kept families like mine going through these difficult times," the letter said.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)