In celebrating Memorial Day, we like to pause each year to remember what this holiday is truly about. While we all welcome the opportunity for extra time off from work, burgers on the grill, warm weather, and time spent relaxing with family and friends, let’s also remember the importance of the sacrifices that have been made in order for us to enjoy the blessings of our family, friends, and community.
Memorial Day is, quite simply, about remembering our fallen soldiers.
While Veterans Day celebrates the service of ALL military personnel, and Independence Day and Flag Day celebrate our establishment as a nation, Memorial Day is a special day of observance for the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in service to our country.
Observed on the last Monday of each May, Memorial Day first began by decree on May 30, 1868, in an order signed by Commander in Chief John A. Logan. He stated that the intention of designating this day was, “for the purpose of strewing flowers on or decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of our country… whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” He specified that while no particular observance or ceremony was “prescribed,” we should create a way to “arrange fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.” The intention was that we, as American people, never forget these brave soldiers.
Today, we ensure that the sacrifices of America’s fallen heroes are never forgotten. In December of 2000, the U.S. Congress passed, and the president signed into law, “The National Moment of Remembrance Act.” The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. According to the Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada:
“It’s a way we can all help put the ‘memorial’ back in Memorial Day.”
On this day, many people also choose to visit cemeteries and memorials, and volunteers often place American flags on each gravesite at national cemeteries.
Wherever you are this Memorial Day and no matter what you are doing or how you plan to observe the holiday, please take a moment to remember that we have hard-won freedoms for which our soldiers fought and died. Enjoy time with your family, friends, and a restful holiday to the fullest, but also take a moment with us to honor the sacrifices made to protect our great nation.