For many, Memorial Day signals the unofficial start of Summer. Kids are out of school, swimming pools are open and grills across America are sizzling with burgers and hot dogs. Area lakes are choked with boaters and the shorelines are packed with folks ready to usher in the season and work on their tans.
Sure, summer is here and its time to enjoy the warmth and relaxation of the holiday. But, there is more, much more.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. It was born out of the carnage of the Civil War. 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 in Washington, D.C.
It has a history of hodge-podge observation, with different states celebrating it on different days. Eventually, it became a national holiday and evolved into a time to honor not just the dead of the War Between the States, but all conflicts.
However, the traditional observance of Memorial Day has waned. Many have forgotten the meaning behind the holiday. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored and neglected. Most no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.
For some, it’s just about backyard cookouts, cold beer and sunning on a sandy lake side.
We should all pause and say a quick thank you to those who died in our nation’s service. We should also thank those veterans who served the nation, but returned with their lives. They, too, could have been among the fallen.
We should also take it on step further. True, it is a day to pay tribute to those fought for our country, but we should also take time to pay tribute to those who thought for our country. From our founding fathers to those who marched for civil rights, there are armies of Americans whose ideas shaped this into the greatest nation on earth.
Are there problems? Yes.
But, for at least one day, we can set these aside and say thanks. This day is about more than dying for freedom. It is about the very freedom itself.