The last Monday of May will mark the Memorial Day holiday for Americans. For many Americans, it’s a chance to get away for a long weekend, spend time with friends and family, have a barbecue and enjoy the day off. It is a day to enjoy the liberty and freedom that so many have fought for and continue to fight for; and perhaps, on this holiday, they will ponder the meaning of Memorial Day.
What is Memorial Day and why did Congress see fit to enact such a holiday? It was originally known as Decoration Day and was first celebrated in 1866, a year after the end of the Civil War, to remember the fallen soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Decoration Day eventually became an official holiday for many states.
After World War I though, the holiday expanded to include all American military personnel who died in any war. This broadened concept was reinforced as America entered World War II and subsequent conflicts until Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday in 1971.
Across America, there will be parades honoring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country. Many of the parades will feature active military personnel and veterans. You’ll see people wearing red poppies in remembrance of the fallen and some will visit cemeteries and memorials.
My father served in the military for well over 20 years. He fought in three wars: World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. He always placed a great emphasis on Memorial Day as I was growing up, mentioning friends he had lost and the importance of remembering them and the price they paid so we might enjoy our freedom.
On this Memorial Day, we should all honor, cherish and remember our fallen heroes. Say a prayer, wear a red poppy, attend one of the parades or visit one of the national cemeteries or memorials. Here is a list of some of those cemeteries and memorials. For ones not on the list below, you can visit the National Cemetery Administration. For war memorials, you can find an extensive list at the American Battle Monuments Commission.