Remembering Our Heroes
WHY WE CELEBRATE MEMORIAL DAY
By Charlie Barbary / May - June, 2011
When May comes around, you can almost feel the anxious air as the countdown to what promises to be another sweltering summer begins. School days seem to drag on as students dream of unplugged alarm clocks and sunny beaches. Memorial Day offers a taste of that impending summer freedom, as businesses and schools close to celebrate the holiday. Families revel in the rarity of a Monday off and prepare to light the barbecue or watch a parade.
However exciting the extended weekend, let's not forget that this holiday is more than a simple get out of class/work/responsibilities card. While hovering over the grill in flip-flops and bathing suits, let's take a moment to think about every soldier who has made these American traditions possible. Draw a mustard smile on the burger bun not to make your kid smile, but because you are lucky too - because someone you do not know found your freedom deserving of his or her life.
The exact origins of Memorial Day are difficult to pinpoint, because the sentiment of honoring servicemen dates back to the 1860s when women would decorate the graves of fallen soldiers. Officially, Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, was proclaimed by General John Logan on May 5, 1868 to honor Civil War soldiers. The holiday was observed for the first time on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
After World War I, the holiday extended to honor any American who died fighting in war. More than 100 years later, graves are adorned with flowers in respect and thanks to those who gave their lives.
Since the 1950s, 1,200 soldiers of the Third U.S. Infantry place small American flags at the gravestones of 260,000 heroes in Arlington National Cemetery on the Thursday preceding Memorial Day. The soldiers patrol the cemetery twenty-four hours a day to ensure that every flag remains standing.
Flags are an important symbol of patriotism. On Memorial Day, families raise flags to half-mast from dawn until noon. The National Moment of Remembrance is at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, when every American is asked to pause for a moment of silence dedicated to the soldiers who have died.
For many American families, every day is Memorial Day as pictures of their lost family members line their walls. Memorial Day is one day to especially honor those in our nation's service who have died. Take a moment every day remembering those who dedicate their lives to protect our families and freedom.
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