On May 31, many families will gather for picnics, barbeques, and other celebrations of summer, but it is important that we remember the reason for Memorial Day — to reflect and be thankful for the sacrifices of our service men and women. The day is set aside to recognize our fallen heroes and keep their memories strong.
Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War and was first called Decoration Day. May 30, 1868 marked the first celebration of Decoration Day, which was designed to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers. This first observance included the participation of 5,000 individuals, who decorated the graves of 20,000 soldiers with flowers and ribbons.
Communities throughout the nation continued to take the time to observe Decoration Day, holding ceremonies and taking time to honor their fallen heroes. In 1917, the United States first joined the global stage when President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany in order to “...make the world safe for democracy, and fight this war to end all wars.” America lost more than 130,000 soldiers, and the nation’s shared loss led communities to set time aside to honor all of those who had died in all of America’s wars. Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Memorial Day is set aside to recognize the fallen service men and women of every generation, from the earliest fighters to those who are serving today. It is our most solemn holiday, one designed to give us the opportunity to reflect on those who gave everything to protect our freedom. All across America, people gather to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for their nation’s freedom.
I hope you will join me this Memorial Day to take the time to remember the service men and women who do not return home to their families, as well as supporting our troops who are fighting today.