As stores begin advertising Memorial Day deals, neighborhood pools open, and individuals grill tender hot dogs and hamburgers for family and friends, Memorial Day’s true meaning should remain intact. Memorial Day Weekend should incorporate acknowledging military members who paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, while serving in the United States Armed Forces. I elect to omit “Happy Memorial Day” in my remarks. It is more than a day off, and surely, is a time to reflect or mourn.

   I recall embracing a woman in front of her child’s headstone at Arlington National Cemetery, before the pandemic started. Tears dropped from my eyes as she shared the gut-wrenching story of losing her son who happened to be her only child. She is a Gold Star Mother—someone who lost a child who was actively serving in the U.S. military. I wanted to take a trip to Arlington National Cemetery to educate my young son about mothers, fathers, wives, children, family members and friends who feel the sting of Memorial Day. He was permitted to place roses on gravesites and salute each service member whose loved ones were not present to pay tribute to them. We even observed veterans in wheelchairs with missing limbs. Some had survived attacks, but not all their friends did. They gathered at gravesites often unable to mutter a word. Sometimes, sounds of grief overtook them, instead.

   Honoring the fallen who lost their lives in the Civil War was the starting point of Memorial Day, yet our modern culture of embracing more fun than history frequently prevails, causing purpose to fade. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, military personnel who died serving in the U.S. military, “particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle,” are remembered and honored on Memorial Day. Veterans Day is regarded as the proper time to celebrate and honor living U.S. military veterans who formerly served in wartime or peacetime. It emphasizes thanking all of those who served honorably, not only those who died during service. 

    It is essential to note that May 30, 1868 marked the first national celebration of Memorial Day which was held at Arlington National Cemetery—the place where both Confederate and Union soldiers were interred. According to the Library of Congress, “Commander in Chief John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic issued General Order Number 11 designating May 30 as a memorial day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

   With all of these factors in mind, please pause to somehow pay tribute to brave men and women who laid down their lives for others, if you do not already do so. They deserve it.

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