Memorial Day. A long weekend, barbeques, parades, door busting sales at the mall, and the un-official start of summer . . .
With all the excitement of warmer weather and fun in the sun that come with Memorial Day, the true meaning of the day is often over looked. Memorial Day is about remembering the ultimate sacrifice of our fallen servicemembers.
It’s about the men and women who left their families, their loves ones, their homes, and died defending our freedoms and way of life.
Memorial Day was originally recognized as Decoration Day and was established soon after the conclusion of the Civil War. According to the Veteran’s Administration, one of the first occurrences of Decoration Day took place in Mississippi in 1866 when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well. Initially, Decoration Day was created to pay tribute to those fallen in the Civil War, but after the First World War, the day was expanded to include all American servicemembers who died at war. Throughout the years the name slowly transformed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day, and in 1971, it was finally declared a federal holiday. It’s observed annually on the last Monday of May.
Memorial Day is not the same as Veterans’ Day and is often confused with it. The purpose of Memorial Day is to honor American warfighters who perished while at war, whereas Veterans’ Day is to celebrate all American’s who have served in the military.
There are several ways to observe Memorial Day and honor those who gave their lives defending our freedom. The most common is to decorate the graves of fallen servicemembers with flowers or small American Flags. Other ways to observe Memorial Day, as suggested by the Memorial Day Foundation are to:
Wear a Memorial Day Button from the first of May until Memorial Day.
Visit cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
Fly the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon. Memorial Day is a day of “National Mourning.”
Attend a religious service of your choice.
Visit a war memorial.
Participate in a “National Moment of Remembrance” at 3 p.m. local time, to pause and think upon the meaning of the day and for taps to be played where possible.
Renew a pledge to aid the widows, and orphans of our fallen dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.
Most of the country, when observing Memorial Day, are honoring the sacrifices made by Airmen, Soldiers, Marines, and Seamen they’ve never met. But unfortunately, every year, the number of people observing Memorial Day to honor a family member who died while serving in one of the current conflicts grows. It’s important on Memorial Day, the families of those killed while in battle are also remembered, and their loss of not only their family member recognized, but also their way of life. These families are known as Gold Star Families.
When a family losses a mother, father, wife, or husband due to war, it can be devastating psychologically, physically, and financially. Aside from the disabled veterans, no living person in this country has given more to benefit the nation than the families of those killed while serving in the armed forces.
This year, during the long Memorial Day weekend, take a moment and remember. Remember those Americans killed in battle this year, last year, and even those killed more than 200 years ago in the Civil War. Think about their families, their mothers, fathers, spouses and children. Be empathetic to their loss. Celebrate the lives of those who gave all and honor their sacrifice. If you attend a barbeque, do so knowing the relevance of the day.