Memorial Day is this upcoming Monday. It is the unofficial start to summer. Public pools start to open. Schools are either out or will be soon. Better still, we get an extra day off of work. There are parades, festivals, cookouts and American flags everywhere. Retail stores have massive sales allowing bargain shoppers to do what they do best. While all of these activities and fun are great, it is important to remember the true meaning of this holiday. Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday in May, is celebrated in honor of the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
The story and events of how Memorial Day as most of us know it came to be might surprise you.It has its roots in the Civil War. America’s national cemeteries were created in response to the enormous amount of casualties from the Civil War. By the late 1860s citizens of various towns and cities began holding springtime tributes to the fallen soldiers. They decorated their graves with flowers and recited prayers. On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan called for the establishment of a nationwide day of remembrance later in the month. The day chosen, named Decoration Day, was May 30 because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular Civil War battle.
Decoration Day was originally created to honor only those who lost their lives while fighting in the Civil War. During World War I, however, the holiday evolved to commemorate all American soldiers who died in battle. For decades the holiday was observed on May 30 until 1968 when Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The act established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees, which was effective in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
This Memorial Day, amongst all the hot dogs and hamburgers, take a moment to remember those who gave their lives for the American dream. If you see a veteran or active-duty service member, please take a moment to thank him or her.
Have a safe and happy Memorial Day!