Before we stoke the fire, open those hot dog packages and toss
some burgers on the grill, let’s take a moment to remember the
origins and true meaning of Memorial Day.
Before we stoke the fire, open those hot dog packages and toss some burgers on the grill, let’s take a moment to remember the origins and true meaning of Memorial Day.
The history of Memorial Day dates back to just after the Civil War. Originally called Decoration Day, it was a day of remembrance for those who have died fighting for our nation. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was first observed on May 30 of that year when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 to ensure a three-day weekend for federal holidays).
And that may be part of the reason why so many Americans no longer understand the real meaning behind the day. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend it made it easier for people to become distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day.
As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: “Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”
Today, we owe so much to those who gave us the freedoms to watch the parades and marching bands. We of today’s America owe them so much and, at times, seem to appreciate them so little.
It would behoove us to humble ourselves for just one moment each year. A good time to do that would be at 9 a.m. Monday at the Remembrance Ceremony at St. Mary’s Cemetery and thank those honored dead for what they did. Far too often our nation takes for granted the freedoms all Americans enjoy.
Let us remember these freedoms were bought and paid for by the lives of others few of us ever knew. They came from all walks of life. They came from the small towns and they came from the big cities. But they all had one thing in common – a love of and loyalty to their country.
By honoring the nation’s war dead, we preserve their memory and thus their sacrifices in the memories of future generations.
So before you drink that beer and enjoy that burger, remember how it is your ability to do so came to be.
It is a day about coming together to honor those who gave their all. Don’t forget them.