Memorial Day has over my lifetime been equated with turning three-day weekends into four-day weekends; barbecues and beer; and big sales at malls.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. It was first observed 25 short days later when flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It wasn’t until after World War I that the entire nation celebrated it, moving past the bitterness of the Civil War and to more common ground. In 1971, it was acclaimed a national holiday.
What started out as way to honor those who died in the Civil War has now become a much more “global” memorial for men and women who have given their lives in service of their country. World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the war on terror in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan bring into clear focus the true meaning of sacrifice. When I was a teenager, there was no war and this holiday seemed nothing more than my observations in the first sentence of this memo. Today, as I see and read of soldier deaths, I become much more serious about the sacrifices of generations of brave men and women dating back to the Revolutionary War.
This Memorial Day is more poignant for me as we will spend part of the day at my father’s graveside. Even though he never sacrificed his life, he did sacrifice his way of life. To him and everyone else who ever served our country and gave something of themselves…
This week’s quote – “They are dead; but they live in each Patriot’s breast, and their names are engraven on honor’s bright crest.”
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Photo is courtesy of Alan Weiss. This photo is taken at U.S. Cemetery in Normandy