Op - Ed, Opinion

Why we celebrate Memorial Day?

Monday, May 31, is Memorial Day. It’s a day of remembrance for those who died in military service America, not to be confused with a day to remember all living veterans who served in the military, that’s Veterans Day or a day to honor all men and women currently in the military, that’s Armed Forces Day. Memorial Day is a federal holiday. A solemn holiday, though it is most often “celebrated” today as a three-day holiday for recreation and barbecues.

Memorial Day began after the Civil War in 1868. An organization of Union veterans started the holiday to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers and it was called Decoration Day. It was changed to Memorial Day in 1882. In 1971, it was established as a federal holiday to be observed on the last Monday in May.

More than 1.1 million Americans have been killed in all U.S. wars since the founding of America, according to  according to the latest estimates from the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Today, out of a nation of nearly 329 million people, 1.3 million Americans are in active duty military, and another 800,000 serve in the reserves, according to the Department of Defense. That’s less than 1% who have served. 

Those who protect our democracy have experienced hostilities, deaths of fellow soldiers and suffered physical and emotional wounds — some that last a lifetime. In 2020, an average of 17 U.S. veterans per day committed suicide. There are many homeless veterans and veterans struggling with daily tasks due to their military experience as well.

So, take a moment’s pause this holiday weekend and remember the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for America, who gave their life for the freedoms we now enjoy. If you visit a cemetery, stop by the graves with American flags by them representing a veteran, and honor them for all they gave. 

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