Today in the U.S. most of us our off of work for Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is often seen as the beginning of the summer. In our neck of the woods it is the weekend our pools open up for the summer months. It’s the time when friends and family get together for BBQs. Some cities have parades with big floats and people tossing candy to kids.
But Memorial Day is more than pool openings, BBQ chicken, and parades.
Memorial Day dates back to the Civil War when Americans set aside a day to decorate the graves of those lost in the Civil War. Back then it was called Decoration Day. It was first widely observed in 1868 when General John A. Logan formally inaugurated the day. On May 5, 1868 Logan declared:
The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
Going forward May 30th became the day to honor those U.S. casualties lost in any military action. In 1967 the name was changed from Decoration Day to Memorial Day. And in 1971 the government changed the date from May 30th to the last Monday in May in order to allow or a three day weekend.
And that’s how many Americans view Memorial Day…as a three day weekend.
I don’t have a lot of veterans in my family. I believe my maternal grandfather was a veteran, but he died when I was just 8 years old and I don’t know a lot about his military experience. One of Lee’s uncles is a career military guy, but we aren’t very close to him. I just don’t have a lot of experience with the military.
But when I was in high school I plastered myself in front of the television watching young men and woman barely older than myself fighting for freedom and keeping us safe. Since 2001 I’ve been plastered to the news outlets watching young men and women barely older than my own children fighting to protect us all.
I’m so sad to see all of the young lives that have been lost in conflict. But I’m also so proud of these young kids who risk their lives to protect mine. These young 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids are way more brave then I have ever been. It is today that we really need to set aside some time to honor these special people who sacrifice so much for us.