KENTUCKY (5/19/13) - Memorial Day signifies the start of summer for most Americans, but that is not its intended purpose.
Those who appreciate and know American history know that Memorial Day was first celebrated in the 1800s to honor Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. Then called Decoration Day, the holiday evolved after World War I into a national observance for all Americans who have died in U.S. military service. It has been officially observed on the last Monday in May since the early 1970s.
This year, Memorial Day falls on May 27, and it is my hope that each of us will observe all or part of this holiday by remembering the service and sacrifice of all members of our U.S. military, past and present. For without them, the America we know and love would not be the symbol of freedom it is today.
Consider the sage advice of President George Washington who wrote, “The willingness of future generations to serve in our military will be directly dependent upon how we have treated those who have served in the past.” In other words, if we want to attract the best recruits into the U.S. Armed Forces, we must give honor to whom honor is due.
But there is something else we should do: Observe every major U.S. military event all year through, for each honors America’s patriotic past, present, and future.
Most of the celebrations—with the exception of Veterans Day, observed usually on Nov. 11—are held between mid-May and Independence Day, beginning with Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday in May. First celebrated on May 20, 1950, Armed Forces Day honors all five branches of service, and recognizes their unified efforts to defend our country.
Armed Forces Day is followed by the Memorial Day holiday, which is followed a little over a week later by celebrations of the June 6, 1944 D-Day Invasion at Normandy in France—a monumental event in U.S. and world history that led to Germany’s surrender on May 8, 1945. The final event before Independence Day is Flag Day, celebrated on June 14 each year in recognition of the adoption of the U.S. flag by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777.
Many of us either have family or friends who have served in the military or have served ourselves. We know the importance of a strong military, of patriotism, of honor and sacrifice. We are torch bearers, of sorts, of our nation’s patriotic flame. And we must guard that flame or risk letting it go out.
Join me in supporting our U.S. military by observing the true meaning of Memorial Day this year. And please also join in the celebration of all our nation’s patriotic events throughout the year.
It is the least we as Americans can do, “lest we forget.”
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