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Labor Day: often misunderstood, always important

PATRICK AFB, Fla. -- The Labor Day weekend is here and that of course means the end of summer - at least growing up in Minnesota it meant the end of summer. I suspect that one's definition may be a trifle different here in sunny Florida though. Nonetheless, I believe that Labor Day is probably one of the most underappreciated, and at the very least, misunderstood of our 10 federal holidays.

So, in another quest to find out "what does it mean to you?" I asked my deputy "what does Labor Day mean?" He shrugged his shoulders and said it had something to do with trees! I told him to go find a coconut and wait for Arbor Day.

My wife informed me that it was "her" holiday for providing us with three wonderful children, and all women that endured labor should be rewarded with flowers and chocolate.

My kids told me that it was supposed to signify the beginning of school, but Florida totally messed that up and started two weeks early.

Our safety czar said it was the time he could stop making the "101 critical days of summer" slides, but to be safe always. Much to my chagrin, I turned and walked away to reflect on what Labor Day may really be about.

Labor Day is often misinterpreted, but always important. It's said that Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter and labor union leader had the idea to honor America's workers. Shortly after he surfaced his idea, New York City hosted a parade Sept. 5, 1882, to pay tribute to the working men and women of the state.

Quite different from other holidays, Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor, noted Labor Day "is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation." The date was strategically set between Independence Day and Thanksgiving and has been officially celebrated by our nation since 1894.

Moreover, Labor Day should be a time to reflect on the contributions of the American worker. While so many folks make our country great, American workers truly make our country move ahead. From every high schooler who just completed their first summer job to the American warriors that keep our country safe, Labor Day signifies a national tribute to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.

Think about that. Each and every one of you should be proud of the daily contributions you make to the 45th Space Wing, our mission partners and our nation. So while this coming weekend is certainly a time to reflect on a great summer vacation, it is also a time to look ahead to what further contributions we can add as part of the labor force. Have a great Labor Day weekend ... and then get to work.