In the 1860s, the U.S. government declared Decoration Day as a day of remembrance to honor those who had died in our nation's service during the Civil War. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed in May 1868, and after World War I the holiday was changed from honoring the Civil War dead to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.
Sadly, the majority of Americans now look forward to Memorial Day weekend as the beginning of their summer holiday, three months of sun, fun, cookouts, sales in stores and partying. Even our administration in Washington, our nation's leaders, rush out of town for the summer. They head for their home states for three months, appearing in the media for photo ops in parades on Memorial Day and Independence Day.
I do believe, however, that there are a handful of lawmakers who honestly revere these holidays, and I thank them for being an example to the population at large. For those families who have lost a father, brother, uncle, mother, sister or cousin, their memorial candle shines brightly in their darkness. Their sadness and loss is real, and they are offended by the lack of patriotism and honor that should be accorded to their lost loved ones on this special holiday. If it were officially observed on its original date of May 30 every year, perhaps Americans would treat the day as the solemn, even sacred, day it is.
We Americans owe everything to our fallen, no matter the war or the generation. My involvement with our wounded warriors and their families, hearing their stories and seeing the pain for their lost brothers, keeps that reverence alive in me every day. All Americans, whether personally connected to the military or not, should never forget those who have laid down their lives for the freedoms that we enjoy every day.
I have always felt that the greeting "happy Memorial Day" is completely inappropriate. I prefer to remind people to remember the reason for their long holiday weekend and take a few moments to reflect on the lives lost in the name of freedom. It is the very least we can do. I pray that at 3 p.m. on May 30, America will remember and say a little prayer of gratitude. I wish Times readers a blessed and meaningful Memorial Day.
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