Monday is Memorial Day. For many Americans, that means a three-day weekend, the start of the summer season, and a chance to hit the sales. When asked “What is Memorial Day?” schoolchildren might answer: “It’s the day the pools open.” But of course it’s so much more than that – it’s a day to remember and honor those military personnel who gave their lives in the line of duty.
Memorial Day was first proclaimed in May of 1868 as a way to honor those who had died in the Civil War. After World War I its scope expanded to include remembrance of those who died fighting in any of America’s wars. For many years it was a day when communities held parades, visited their cemeteries, and paid homage to those local citizens who had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. But in recent years we seem to have moved the parades and the patriotism to the 4th of July, and Memorial Day has languished a bit.
I’d like to encourage everyone to spend at least part of Memorial Day thinking about the meaning of this special day. If you want to join in a specific moment with the whole country, set your alarm for 3 PM Eastern Standard Time. That’s when people across the United States will observe a National Moment of Remembrance. Major league baseball teams will halt play for a moment of silence, Amtrak trains will sound their whistles, and many Americans will stop and take a moment to remember those who gave everything in service to our country.
Here at the Office of Servicemember Affairs we will be remembering – and pledging that we will honor the memory of those heroes by doing our utmost to support and protect the military members and families who serve so faithfully for all of us.