New Kansas resident Kelly Ray wanted to share his message of respect for America’s fallen servicemen and women this Memorial Day weekend.
What happened next was more than he could have imagined.
After moving recently from Missouri to work at Mayberry’s in the northern Kansas town of Washington, Ray brought with him a sandwich board that he made while working at a previous restaurant.
The sign reads “We have 619,300 reasons to be closed on Monday,” referring to U.S. service members lost while fighting in World War I, World War II and the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Mayberry’s, a bar and grill in the town of about 1,100 people, was closed Sunday and Monday.
“I just love the message,” Ray said while driving to Iowa on Sunday. “You don’t have to like our president or like some of the things our government is doing, but you sure better respect those who have laid down their lives for us to be able to live here.”
Brandon Lee of Clay Center, a Mayberry’s patron, posted a picture of the sign on his Facebook page on Thursday. As of early Sunday afternoon, Lee’s post had been shared nearly 64,000 times on the social network.
“To see that it’s over 60,000 shares, that’s amazing,” said Ray, who is the restaurant’s manager and chef. “If it helps get that message out there and maybe brings some people to Mayberry’s, that’s great.”
To see that it’s over 60,000 shares, that’s amazing.
Kelly Ray, Mayberry’s manager and chef
Ray said the sign came about while he was working for a previous restaurant in Missouri.
“I mentioned to the owner that we should be closed for Memorial Day, and he said, ‘I can’t think of one good reason why we would do that, because people are going to be out and they’ll want to eat,’ ” Ray said. “I saw a post on Facebook with the number of people who have died in our wars, so I basically just put that on a sign and showed it to him.”
The sign must have worked, because ownership decided to close the Missouri establishment for the Memorial Day holiday. When he moved to Kansas earlier this year, Ray said, he brought the sign with him, and his new employer loved it.
According to official U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs numbers and depending on how the deaths are calculated, the sign is a little off on some totals, but the message is clear: Hundreds of thousands of service members died in the wars listed on Ray’s sign.
His hope is that people take some time to think about them during the holiday weekend.
“People talk about Memorial Day being the start of summer and that sort of thing,” Ray said. “But what it’s really about is those people who died. I hope people think about them.”
Mayberry’s will be open from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Tuesday.