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Memorial Day is a day for remembering the men and women who died while serving in our armed forces to give the us the very freedom we enjoy. The holiday was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated after our Civil War to commemorate both Union and Confederate soldiers who had died in the war. Today Memorial Day honors all Americans who have died while in the military service, in contrast to Veteran’s Day which commemorates all who have ‘served’ in the military.
As a child I remember the first time I ever went to the Chattanooga (Tennessee) National Cemetery (figure 2) when we visited the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Civil War Battlefields. Rows and rows of those white tombstone markers for both Union and Confederate soldiers, cousin fighting cousin, brother fighting brother. We tend to forget that more Americans died during our own Civil War than in all other conflicts combined.
Since that conflict Americans have served and died to let freedom ring around the world (figure 3), and many are still serving 'in harms way' on this very day. Let us not only remember those who have sacrificed, but those who are still sacrificing in service to our country.
In 1966, Memorial Day was declared a 'national holiday' for federal employees, subsequently many state and local governments also observed the 'day off'. Since that time many businesses also observe the holiday.
Now days, Memorial Day is thought more of being the ‘unofficial start’ of summer, the ‘end of school’, or a time for that first ‘summer vacation’. It has also become one of the major ‘commercial shopping days’ of the year; I would almost bet that your local newspaper (if you still subscribe to one) is full of more ‘shopping advertisements’ than ‘memorial announcements’.
The days of Memorial Day parades are fading, not many communities sponsor such events anymore; however, chances are at least one local cemetery, VFW hall, or Veteran’s memorial in your area will be having some kind of a memorial service.
I encourage you to take time out of your busy schedule of Veteran’s Day vacation activities and ‘remember’ the true meaning of this day, and acknowledge (in your own way) the ultimate sacrifice so many have made so that we have the freedom to indeed enjoy this holiday.
God Bless American - Let Freedom Ring