The Significance of Memorial Day


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Happy Memorial Day weekend! With summer vacation around the corner, it is often hard to remember that the purpose of the extra day off from school, is not to lounge at the pool with friends or check out sales at the mall. It is to honor the brave men and women who have died serving our country in the United States armed forces!

Memorial Day was first observed on May 30th, 1868, by General Logan, the National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, to try to unite the country following the American Civil War fought between the Northern and Southern States.

Calling it Decoration Day, he celebrated it by placing flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at the Arlington National Cemetery.

By 1890, all the Northern States had joined in to observe this all important day. However, the States in the South refused and instead chose other days to honor their fallen heroes. While they finally succumbed after World War I, when the purpose of the holiday was changed from honoring just the fallen soldiers from the Civil War to honoring all Americans that had sacrificed their lives for the country's freedom, some have continued to observe the tradition of honoring soldiers that lost their lives in the Confederate war, on a different day.

Oddly enough, despite the fact that Memorial Day was recognized throughout the country, it was not until 1971, that it was declared a national holiday. In an attempt to ensure that Americans could enjoy a three-day weekend, the authorities moved the date from May 30th to the last Monday of May.

Though granting the nation an extra holiday was a great idea, it has resulted in diminishing the importance of the day. Kids think of it as the day that marks the 'beginning of summer' or the 'first day when swimming pools open,' while adults view it as an opportunity to host barbecue parties and check out sales.

To try to revive the significance of this all-important day, in December 2000, the US Congress passed, and the President signed into law, 'The National Moment of Remembrance Act.' The law requires all Americans to observe a minute of silence at 3.00 pm (local time) to honor the heroes that have sacrificed their lives for the safety and freedom of the country.

So this Memorial Day, be sure to set aside those burgers and root beer floats for a minute or two, to reflect on all the brave men and women who are no longer around to enjoy this three-day weekend!

Happy Memorial Day!


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