On this last Monday in May, America observes our most solemn national holiday. This is the weekend that welcomes summer vacation, barbeques, road trips, camping and three full days for ‘big savings’ at local retailers. Most of us will take time to spend with family and friends, but have we lost perspective of what we need to remember on Memorial Day?
Paying Tribute to Honor and Sacrifice
Observing Memorial Day is a family tradition for most Americans. Time spent remembering loved ones by visiting the cemetery is a great way to help little ones understand the importance of paying tribute to those who came before us. Honoring the sacrifices of the men and women who died while in service to our country will mean more to kids with an understanding that they were someone’s brother or sister, someone’s child or someone’s parent.
From Decoration Day to Memorial Day
For over 150 years Americans have observed Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day. Following the Civil War, a dedicated annual day was declared for our nation to remember the Union war dead by decorating their graves with flowers. After WWI this day was commissioned to include all US wars. Congress established the Uniform Monday Holiday Act to give federal employees a full 3-day weekend in 1968. The holiday that we recognize as Memorial Day became official in 1971.
Commemorating Our Nation’s Servicemembers
Since WWI, more than 645,000 men and women have given their lives to defend the freedoms we enjoy. Yet, despite the decades that have past, volunteers with local organizations, like the VFW or American Legion, join to honor those who have served their country. US flags are solemnly placed on the graves of veterans to honor their service and sacrifice. The hundreds of miniature stars and stripes, reverently placed on the graves of former and fallen US service members, is a long-standing tribute performed without fanfare or recognition.
Important Family Traditions
In every community across the United States, the colorful flowers and waving flags that dot row after row in our local cemeteries, create a moving and awe-inspiring sight. There are dedication ceremonies, local parades, and other community events to observe Memorial Day. Families visit lost loved ones at their graveside, to pay respect by remembering those who have touched our lives. These important traditions are what we need to remember on Memorial Day, year after year, from one generation to the next. For ideas about spending time with your family and observing the true meaning of this somber holiday, visit the United Service Organizations (USO).