Memorial Day weekend, for many Americans, results in a three-day weekend which identifies the unofficial beginning of summer. It seems to be the perfect time for picnics, a day at the beach and backyard barbecues as millions of Americans hit the road to spend time with family and friends. However, the holiday represents so much more than any of those celebrations.
It is actually a day aimed at remembering those who have dedicated their lives to serving and protecting the freedom of America. Not many years after the Civil War ended, May 30th was established as a day to decorate veterans’ graves, otherwise known as Declaration Day. This day was designed to pay tribute to the soldiers who died as a result of serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:
In 1971, Memorial Day was official deemed a national holiday which would be celebrated on the last Monday of May.
The President signed The National Moment of Remembrance Act into law in December 2000. Legislature’s goal was to ensure the sacrifices made by America’s fallen heroes would never be forgotten. The National Moment of Remembrance encourages Americans everywhere to pause on Memorial Day at 3 p.m. (local time) for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. Carmella LaSpada, Remembrance founder, said:
It is a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.
Many Americans, who are very grateful for the sacrifices made by the U.S. Military, do not understand the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. As stated previously, the latter pays tribute to those who either died as a result of wounds sustained in battle or were killed during a war. It was later expanded to honor those who died in all American wars after World War I.
The former, which is not Veteran’s Day or Veterans’ Day, is a federal holiday which was formerly called Armistice Day, Originally it was the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I on November 11, 1918. Veterans Day honors everyone who has served in any branch of the military. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs:
Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who serviced — not only those who died — have sacrificed and done their duty.
Previously, Veterans Day was observed on the fourth Monday in October, but later reverted back to November 11. This date continues to hold fast; regardless of the day of the week on which it falls, the observance is still held on November 11. Veterans Day honors and celebrates veterans for their love of America, patriotism and wiliness to sacrifice and serve for continued freedom and the common good of the country. Well-known singer India Arie describes both holidays best in the lyrics of her song Thank You:
Thank you, for doing what you do to make sure we have the right to live the way we choose. Someone had to sacrifice, risk their own to save a life. Thank you for doing what you do.
Do not just celebrate Memorial Day with barbecues, beer, picnics and other festivities without at least pausing to thank a soldier for their sacrifice. Remember, at 3 p.m., to pause for a moment of silence to memorialize those who have died protecting the liberty of these United States of America. Freedom is not free; someone had to sacrifice and risk their own to save a life. Americans should forever be thankful for all who serve and have served in any branch of the United States military.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
ABC News: Memorial Day 2015: The Real Story Behind the Holiday
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: Memorial Day History
AZ Lyrics: ‘Thank You’ by India Arie
Top Image Courtesy of Rachel Kramer – Flickr License
Inside Image Courtesy of Beverly & Pack – Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of DVIDSHUB – Flickr License