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Memorial Day: Remembering the Sacrifice and How to Honor Our Fallen Heroes

Memorial Day

As we gather around our barbeque grills and outdoor patio tables on this Memorial Day, let’s not forget what this day actually is meant to be. While it is great to have the day off of work and spend time with our families, this day is not a celebration but a remembrance. It’s a day of remembrance for those who have gone before us to fight battles in the name of freedom and America and have given the ultimate sacrifice to that end.

A Brief History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, first known as Decoration Day, was a time when mainly southern states went and decorated the graves of fallen Civil War vets. In 1868, three years after the Civil War ravaged America, the Grand Army of the Republic established Decoration Day. And though no one truly knows the origin of the holiday, or where it was first officially observed, in 1966, President Johnson declared that Waterloo, New York was the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. Then, in 1971, Congress officially declared Memorial Day a national holiday, always observed on the final Monday of May.

America’s first “war” was the battle for independence from Britain and since then have been involved in conflicts and wars across the globe, most in the direct fight for freedom. Through these battles, lives have been given to protect the American ideal of freedom:

Memorial Day

American Fatalities in Wars since 1775*:

  • American Revolution: around 6,800 in battle; roughly 17,000 through disease
  • War of 1812: roughly 2,260
  • Civil War:
    • Union: 140,414
    • Confederacy: 74,524
  • Spanish-American War: 385
  • World War I: 53,402
  • World War II: 291,557
  • Korean War: 33,739
  • Vietnam War: 47,434
  • Desert Shield/Desert Storm: 148
  • America’s War on Terror (Afghanistan and Iraq): 7,076
    *These numbers indicate only “battlefield deaths” the casualty rate was higher when disease is taken into consideration.

How should we Observe Memorial Day?

Memorial Day isn’t meant to be a day that we sit and mourn continually, but partake in the freedom we’re provided by those who paid the ultimate price. We are able to sit around a barbeque pit with the family because we are free; we are free because men and women have chosen, willingly, to sacrifice for us to live free.

Live a life worthy of the Sacrifice they made

This is for America as a whole. Our society could benefit from this reminder: our servicemen and women did not choose to serve for you to live a life that does not honor that. It does not matter if you’re a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or couldn’t care less about politics, the shenanigans that have been occurring are unbecoming of citizens of the greatest country on earth.

We should model this for our kids, too. How do we treat those we come in contact with on a daily basis? Is it with respect and kindness? General care and concern seem to be lacking in our current society and it is not something that will change wholesale, but must start on a smaller scale with the type of children we raise. Let’s raise the next generation to honor the freedom they’ve been given by living in light of it and showing respect to their fellow countrymen.

Live the Day free and Relaxed

Even though Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, it shouldn’t be a day for just somber living. Live in the freedom you’ve been provided by the sacrifice of these men and women. We are able to spend time with family – go golfing, to the lake, or just relax – because of the freedom we have been provided by those who sacrificed the ultimate.

As the sun shines today, enjoy its warmth and bask in the nothing-to-dos this day can provide. It is an opportunity for us to get a little R&R and spend time with the people who matter most to us. And, we should enjoy this time and be present for it, because each moment is precious.