Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. Memorial Day is the time for Americans to reconnect with their history and core values by honoring those who gave their lives for the ideals we cherish.
There is a reason why societies memorialize those who, through their sacrifice or courage, were instrumental in shaping their cultural identity. To forget the legacy of one’s forefathers is to actually lose some essence of who we are as a unique people. Thus, we honor our founders and heroes by creating memorials to them. We erect statues, name airports and cities after them and even have national holidays in remembrance of their sacrifices and accomplishments. Yet, the power of our memorials goes beyond the tribute they offer to the past; they actually connect us to our heritage. For what we truly memorialize, we internalize and make a living part of our souls. Thus, each time a succeeding generation honors a national hero, as they appreciate what made their leaders great, the essence of those values is transferred to them.
More than a million American service members died in the wars and conflicts this nation fought since the first colonial soldiers took up arms in 1775 to fight for independence. Each person who died during those conflicts was a loved one cherished by family and friends. Each was a loss to the community and the nation. Most Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. We in this country owe a great debt of gratitude to those who sacrificed their lives so that we could live free. We can start to pay that debt by not forgetting, by remembering what they did and what they stood for.
Listen to these words by Charles M. Province:
“It is the Soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us Freedom of the Press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet, Who has given us Freedom of Speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer, Who has given us the Freedom to demonstrate.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer, Who has given us the right to a fair trial;
And it is the Soldier–who salutes the flag, Who serves the flag, and Whose coffin is draped by the flag– Who allows the protester to burn the flag.”
HOW TO OBSERVE
The “Memorial” in Memorial Day has been ignored by too many of us who are beneficiaries of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Often we do not observe the day as it should be, a day where we actively remember our ancestors, our family members, our loved ones, our neighbors, and our friends who have given the ultimate sacrifice:
• by visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
• by visiting memorials.
• by flying the US Flag at half-staff until noon.
• by flying the ‘POW/MIA Flag’ as well (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act).
• by participating in a “National Moment of Remembrance”: at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played.
• by renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our fallen dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.