Memorial Day is:
- The unofficial kick-off of Summer
- A great weekend to find deals on just about everything
- The Indianapolis 500
- Time to honor the men and women who gave their lives serving our country
- All of the above
Sadly, 'All of the above' is the correct answer, with numbers 1, 2, & 3 obscuring the most important meaning of Memorial Day.
Memorial Day (originally known as "Decoration Day") traces its roots back to the middle of the 19th century when General John Logan issued General Order #1 on May 5, 1868, stating;
"...gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime....let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude,--the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan."
Memorial Day became a three-day weekend event back in 1971 when 1968's Uniform Holidays law took effect, mandating the move of three holiday observances to the closest Mondays. This did make for long weekends, but some say, the move diluted the real meaning of Memorial Day, putting the focus on recreation and relaxation instead of the sacrifice of our military.
How should you mark Memorial Day? The folks at US Memorial Day offer some tips;
- by visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
- by visiting memorials.
- by flying the U.S. 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 falled dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.
For the families and friends of those who died in service to America, every single day is Memorial Day, as they are forced to carry on without a loved one. The least we can do is pause at 3pm on Monday for a Moment of Remembrance.