Memorial Day is traditionally a day to honor fallen members of the military. The day is increasingly viewed as a kickoff to summer, road trips, backyard barbecues, shopping sprees, and mattress sales.
But Memorial Day is not really a celebration, which is why we don’t say “Happy Memorial Day.” Instead, the day is solemnly set aside to commemorate those who gave their lives in the service of our country.
The history of Memorial Day dates back to May 5, 1868, the day the Civil War ended. Afterward, Union and Confederate veterans created separate holidays to honor more than 620,000 soldiers who died.
It was not until 1968 that separate “Decoration Day” and Confederate ceremonies merged into a single Memorial Day we all celebrate on the last Monday in May, honoring the ultimate sacrifice of our soldiers.
Today, small towns and big cities nationwide spend Memorial Day paying tribute to the brave men and women who died to preserve our freedom. Millions of Americans visit cemeteries, decorate graves with flags and flowers, tell stories, attend worship services, and parades.
These traditions help us remember our past. Memorial Day is also the perfect time to teach history to our children so that future generations never forget. Even if you do not have family members who died in service, Memorial Day is a good time to reflect and pay your respects.
Reading all the names and dates is also powerful lesson in the devastating toll of war. You may decide to learn more about the history of American wars and battles where our soldiers fought and died. This is what Memorial Day is all about — recognizing those who died for the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free.