This Memorial Day weekend, families and friends will gather for good food and good times at cookouts, parades and festivals held annually across the nation. Amidst burgers and baked beans, music and fireworks, stories will be shared and memories will be made.
Unofficially marking the beginning of summer, this festive three-day weekend holds a special place in the hearts of many Americans, including myself.
I come from a long line of family that has proudly served to defend our nation’s freedom and independence in times of combat. My Dad served in World War II, and my uncles and cousins served in Korea and Vietnam. Sadly, one of my cousins lost his life serving in Vietnam while carrying out our country’s mission. Every Memorial Day, I’m reminded of the immeasurable sacrifices my loved ones and others have made and continue to make every day on our behalf.
Originally known as Decoration Day, the holiday originated in the years following the Civil War and was declared a national holiday in 1971 to honor the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military.
As Americans, we often take our freedom for granted, but it’s because of the men and women that have served in the U.S. military that we are able to enjoy all the things we love each and every day without fear. Whether you’ve lost someone dear or know someone serving, heard about it in the news or are serving yourself, Memorial Day is your opportunity to pay tribute and say thank you.
Of the four million people that visit Arlington National Cemetery every year, thousands will travel from around the county this coming weekend for a Memorial Day ceremony to remember and pay their respects to loved ones and unknown soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our nation’s independence. Hundreds of thousands of graves will be adorned with small American flags, and traditionally, the President or Vice President will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
This year will also mark the 23rd annual National Memorial Day Concert, a tribute and dedication to all our military men and women, as well as their families, who so unselfishly serve to defend our country and the freedoms we enjoy every day. The concert will be broadcast live on the eve of Memorial Day from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol via PBS, as well as the American Forces Network to the nearly one million American service men and women and Department of Defense civilians and their families stationed overseas and on U.S. Navy ships at sea.
So this weekend, as you enjoy one another’s company, as well as grilled hot dogs, potato salad and strawberry lemonade, take a minute to reflect on the history and true meaning of Memorial Day – a day of remembrance and respect to all the men and women who protect our freedom and serve as a powerful inspiration to us all.