Memorial Day is more than a three-day weekend. It is much more than the unofficial beginning of summer. This federal holiday was created as a day to pay respect to all those Americans who have given their lives in the service of this country.
Certainly, Memorial Day is an occasion for family and friends to gather for picnics and cookouts, but it is also a day to remember those who have died for the liberties we now enjoy. We should also take time on Memorial Day to say a prayer for those who continue to answer their country’s call to duty.
The Memorial Day holiday was established in 1868 as a day to remember the more than half-million Americans who died in the Civil War. Some believe Memorial Day lost its importance when the National Holiday Act of 1971 moved the observance from its traditional May 30 to the last Monday in May.
For several years now, officials with the Veterans of Foreign Wars have advocated returning Memorial Day to its previously fixed date. They say changing the date merely to create a three-day weekend has undermined the very meaning of Memorial Day.
Although President Lincoln was not alive to participate in the first Memorial Day, he perhaps summed up best how Americans should observe this day. In a speech he delivered shortly before his death, he said: “The mystic cords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart, should swell into a mighty chorus of remembrance, gratitude and rededication on this solemn occasion.”
On this Memorial Day, we honor the 400,000 Americans who died in World War II. We also remember the 36,500 of our countrymen who were killed in the Korean War, as well as the 58,200 U.S. servicemen and women who died in the Vietnam War.
We also take time this day to honor the 380 Americans who were killed in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and we pay respect to the 4,486 killed in Iraq and the 2,227 Americans who have died in Afghanistan.
We want to hear from you. Who will you be remembering on this Memorial Day? Tell us about him or her.
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