Memorial Day comes at the end of May every year — a time that marks the beginning of the summer vacation season with a three-day federal holiday and the running of the Indianapolis 500 — dubbed the greatest spectacle in racing.
That’s great, but Memorial Day is really a time when we honor the memory of those who served in the military and have passed from this world. (Veterans Day is the day we honor our living veterans.)
We honor our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our mothers and fathers, our aunts and uncles, our nieces, nephews and cousins on Memorial Day — the brave men and women who from the very beginning of our nation have answered our country’s call to arms and some have made the ultimate sacrifice. We owe them our respect and recognition.
The Civil War probably divided America as much as a country can be divided and still survive, and that war claimed more lives than any conflict in our nation’s history.
Brothers took up arms against their brothers and the North and South bitterly battled each other.
Despite those deep divisions, 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 soldiers were decorated with flowers at Arlington National Cemetery.
President Abraham Lincoln delivered The Gettysburg Address Nov. 19, 1863, with words “the world will little note, nor long remember,” honoring both the living and the dead from both sides.
While the Gettysburg Address did not occur on Memorial Day, Lincoln set the somber tone for the future holiday.
“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced,” Lincoln said. “It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
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 whom we honor on Memorial Day selflessly put their lives on the line and some paid the ultimate price.
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 our homeland. It’s a story that’s as old as our country.
May God bless America and our departed veterans, too, this Memorial Day.