Barbecues, swimming, picnics, bicycling or taking in fireworks. You might be doing one – or all – of these activities this weekend.
All are typical activities for the weekend considered the unofficial kickoff to summer. It is a time to get together with family and friends – a time when we appreciate all the freedoms that we as Americans enjoy.
But those blessings come at a cost – and that cost is often borne by men and women in uniform. For many, Memorial Day is a somber occasion.
Observed on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who gave their lives while serving in the U.S. military. The holiday started in May 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, as Decoration Day – a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, www.va.gov.
After World War I, the definition of the day extended to recognize those who died in all U.S. wars. In 1971, an act of Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday.
There are many ways to pay your respects; in Will and Grundy counties this long weekend there will be parades, memorials, services, ceremonies and moments of silence at area veterans organizations, churches, cemeteries and town squares.
The presidential proclamation issued by President Barack Obama notes that 3 p.m. local time Monday is the designated time for all Americans to observe, in whatever way they choose, the National Moment of Remembrance.
“With courage and a love of country that knows no limits, America’s men and women in uniform exemplify patriotism at its core – stepping into harm’s way to protect our people and to safeguard the ideals that have long sustained our democracy,” the presidential proclamation starts. “Those who serve under the stars and stripes embody the highest form of citizenship, and on Memorial Day, we pay solemn tribute to those brave Americans who laid down their lives to defend our freedom.”
So before you fire up the grill or head to a swimming pool, find a way to remember and honor those who gave all. Fly a flag. Attend a parade. Explain to your child the significance of the day. Say a prayer for the souls of military members who have died.
Take a moment to honor the sacrifice many have made that allows you to have so much.