To many, the last Monday in May is the official beginning of summer.
However, since 1866, the day has been nationally set aside for Memorial Day: a day to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for our nation.
Participants of the California Masonic Lodge met May 27 at their home turf to recognize veterans and master masons who died in the last year as well as those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post and Auxiliary No. 4345 were also present.
David Bledsoe, worshipful master of California Masonic Lodge No. 183, served as speaker for the observance, reminding the audience of the veterans' legacies.
"We mourned them then, and we mourn them now," Bledsoe said. "We look around us today and see their legacy in their surviving family members and this town: we are their legacy."
No matter the political stance the nation holds dear, Bledsoe said, there is one fact we must all remember.
"Politics don't matter when a family comes to hear, 'We regret to inform you,'" he said. "There is far more that unites us as a nation than divides us."
While some veterans volunteered their time to serve this nation, others were volun-told, Bledsoe remarked. No matter their involvement, "they are indisputable heroes."
In Moniteau County, 34 lives were lost to World War I, 46 in World War II, seven in Korea, three in Vietnam and one, to date, in the war on terror.
"We continue to lose heroes every day," Bledsoe said. "But to those families, and us, these heroes are forever brave and strong.
"The Gold Star families still hear their loved one's voices and memory. It is our job to hear those families," he said. "To keep the fallen in our mind and their families in our hearts. This is how we keep their memory alive forever."
The annual bell-ringing ceremony struck 26 times on the morning of May 27, commemorating the lives of local veterans and/or master masons who died in the last year.
A final and somber note was given by Bledsoe: "Freedom isn't free. But because of the sacrifices these brave men and women gave for all of us, we are here."