2018-05-01 / Features

Memorial Day a time to memorialize and pay honor

Some view it as simply the start of the summer season — the last Monday of May.

But for those who understand the role a strong military has played in this nation’s history and who are grateful for every life sacrificed to keep America free, Memorial Day is a time to memorialize and pay honor to every person who has sacrificed life in that duty.

Decoration Day was first marked on May 30 on the calendar, beginning after the Civil War. Said to have come into being as a way to honor Union soldiers, following the praiseworthy example of people in the Southern states who practiced a special attitude of appreciation for the final sacrifices of their soldiers, the holiday was broadened to include all men and women who died in any war or military action after World War I.

The federal holiday became known as Memorial Day after World War II.

In 1968, the Uniform Holidays Bill was passed in an effort to use federal holidays as three-day weekends. It was not until 1971 that Memorial Day was officially celebrated on the last Monday in May, however, and, even then, it took a while for all states to adopt that practice.

Confusion continues to exist about the focus of the day, with some people tending to include veterans who are still very much alive in their thoughts and actions. But Memorial Day is specifically reserved for those who gave their lives in service.

Because the holiday falls at such a weather-positive time of year and is always part of a longer than usual weekend, many families choose to celebrate it with picnics, mini-vacations, reunions or sporting events. Schools, non-essential government offices, some public transit systems and, in some cases, other private businesses and services suspend work on that day.

However, when May 28 rolls around this year, flags will also be lowered to half staff from dawn until noon; people will visit cemeteries and memorials, often leaving special remembrances there for those who died in military service; some communities will host special events to recall the sacrifices made; and volunteers will place small American flags on each grave in national cemeteries, as well as on the final resting places of thousands of other men and women like them who are buried in cemeteries across the country.

It’s a great day to celebrate being alive and able to enjoy family and friends and the beauty of the earth in a free country filled with possibilities. It’s an even better day to give at least a few moments to recalling, with special gratitude, those who made it so.

May they rest in peace, for their sacrifices have not been in vain.

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