Memorial Day has come to represent many things, from the unofficial beginning of summer to a day for a trip to the mall in search of sales. But we, as a nation, never should forget the true meaning of Memorial Day and why we observe it as a holiday each year.
three-day weekend is an occasion for cookouts, trips to visit friends
and relatives, time at the beach and an extra day off from work. With
gas prices dropping, hundreds of thousands of Americans are on the move.
That’s fitting in a way. We, as a nation, are enjoying the fruits of democracy and freedom, the uniquely American way of life.
as we celebrate, we also need to reflect on the sacrifice required to
preserve those values. We need to remember those who died to keep us
free and to allow successive generations to live and prosper in a land
The Memorial Day observance began humbly in 1868 as a
day for the families of Civil War dead to take flowers to their graves.
The holiday first was known as Decoration Day.
But after World
War I, Memorial Day was expanded to honor not only those who died in the
Civil War but also in every conflict that claimed the lives of
Americans. In 1971, it was made an official national holiday to be held
each year on the last Monday in May.
Sadly, Americans still are
dying in a war on the other side of the world. While we now can see the
beginning of the end of the decade-long war in Afghanistan, our troops
are committed to remain for nearly two more years, to continue to remain
in harm’s way in the name of national security.
We look forward to the day when we can celebrate a Memorial Day on which no American troops are involved in combat.
Memorial Day, as its name implies, comprises a long roster of those who
made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. Today, in particular, we
honor those who died in World War II, whose comrades now are nearing the
end of their lives.
We also honor the thousands of Americans who
died in the Iraq War, now officially ended but still fresh in the
nation’s memory. For so many, the grief of losing loved ones in these
recent wars still is raw and ever-present.
So, as we enjoy this
three-day weekend and the fun of being with family and friends, let us
stop at least for a moment to remember the sacrifice of so many over the
course of our history and the debt we owe them. Let us also reach out
to those who are grieving over the loss of a loved one.
Let’s enjoy the holiday but not forget why we are privileged to do so.
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