This weekend, many people will have an extra day off and will enjoy some leisure time with family or friends, thanks to the Memorial Day holiday.
We hope that, along with the pleasures of a day at home or engagement in a favorite pastime, you give some thought to the reasons the day was created in the first place and why it has evolved into one of our most gratefully anticipated holidays of the year.
Actually, Memorial Day has a proud history, dating back to the close of the Civil War. Then called Decoration Day, the holiday was declared to honor the brave soldiers who had died in that grim internal conflict. In the 20th century, it was expanded to commemorate the actions of all service members who had died in all wars. (Veterans Day, on the other hand, is to pay respects to all members of the service, living or dead.)
Always the last Monday of May, Memorial Day has become the unofficial start of summer (and for years was highlighted on the sports calendar by the Indianapolis 500 automobile race).
The holiday is now a time to reflect on the valiant members of the military — both men and women — who have offered the ultimate sacrifice for their country and what it meant to them and means to us. Think for a moment of the extent of that sacrifice. To retain the freedoms we cherish, they died so we wouldn’t have to.
Some of our war dead were gallant volunteers who waged war as they were ordered to do, knowing full well they were risking all. Others were called to war via the draft, yet gave their lives anyway, to our inestimable benefit.
Today, as we celebrate their spirit and actions, we also turn our thoughts to the civilian deceased. Memorial Day has become traditionally a day of visiting cemeteries and pondering the lives of relatives and others close to us who have enriched our existences in ways that are not related to military service.