May 21, 2013 — It’s true. Memorial Day traditionally marks the beginning of the summer season with the year’s first three-day weekend, barbecues, the Coca Cola 600 and the Indianapolis 500 — long dubbed the greatest spectacle in racing.
While the weekend provides a wonderful opportunity for family get-togethers and family fun as well as an extra day off work, it also provides an opportunity for each of us toremember and reflect upon the real reason for the holiday — a time to pause and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country and our freedom.
The Civil War probably divided America as much as a country can be divided and still survive, and the war claimed more lives than any conflict in our nation’s history as brother took up arms against his brother and the North and South bitterly battled each other.
Despite those deep and trying divisions, by the late 1800s Americans began the practice of honoring those from both sides who fell during the Civil War by decorating their graves.
In 1862, as the war raged, General John A. Logan called for a day of remembrance, and a holiday known as Decoration Day came into existence May 30, 1868 when the graves of both Union and Confederate solders were decorated with flowers at Arlington National Cemetery.
After World War I, a new holiday was needed to honor those who gave their lives in the War to End All Wars — and the holiday we now know as Memorial Day began.
In 1968, the federal government changed the date of Memorial Day to the last Monday of May, and created the three-day holiday we know today.
Throughout our history, these brave men and women in the military we honor on Memorial Day have answered the nation’s call to service and left their families, their business and their homes to protect our nation. They selflessly put their lives on the line and paid the ultimate price.
Over the years these warfighters have defended our country all around the world, soundly defeating the Axis powers of Germany, Italy and Japan in World War II, fighting the spread of communism in Korea and Vietnam and most recently the conflicts in Southwest Asia — Iraq and Afghanistan.
As long as there is an America, brave young men and women will take up the call to arms and defend our nation against its foes when Congress and our elected leaders decide the best course for our nation is to respond to a threat with military force and put those in uniform in harm’s way.
And as long as there is an America and the need to go to war, some of these brave men and women will lay down their lives to benefit the homeland. It’s a story that’s as old as our country.
Memorial Day is a time to remember them and honor their sacrifice.
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