Written by: Libby Reilly
Amidst plans with friends, the allure of being outside in the newfound sunshine of the season, and looking forward to enjoying a three-day weekend away from work, it can be easy to push aside the real reason Americans celebrate Memorial Day. There are big sales at our favorite stores, plans of barbeques and road trips, and the chance to sleep in one more morning before starting the work week. The reason we celebrate this day, however, is truly humbling.
Memorial Day is observed across our nation as a day set apart to remember and pay respects to those who died while serving our country in the armed forces. It is always celebrated on the last Monday of May, which is fittingly Military Appreciation Month.
While all the gratitude and remembrance we feel could not possibly be expressed on one day, it is nice to take some time to reflect on what it means for the service men and women, and their families, who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day in 1868 after the American Civil War. This was to establish a day to decorate the graves of union service members. Until the 20th century, Union and Confederate holidays competed with one another, but eventually merged into what we now know as Memorial Day, celebrating and remembering all service members. The holiday adopted its current name after World War II. On June 28, 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, moving four national holidays to a designated Monday.
On the morning of Memorial Day, the American flag is raised to full- staff then slowly lowered to half-staff from sunrise until noon. It remains full-staff until the end of the day.
According to USMemorialDay.org, “The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.”
On Memorial Day, we urge you to take time to reflect on those who gave their life to protect our freedom. Decorate a grave or memorial, wave your American flag with pride, participate in a parade, or visit a monument or memorial site in your area. No matter how you show your gratitude and patriotism, it is only important that you show it at all.
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