The answer is so beautifully summed in this quote by former president, Barack Obama:
“Our nation owes a debt to its fallen heroes that we can never truly repay, but we can honor their sacrifice.”
Memorial Day is more than just the end of the three-day-long weekend, mattress sales, and the unofficial start of summer. The real meaning and significance of this holiday have slowly been clouded by our barbecue plans, beach days, and travel goals.
In this blog post, we’ll answer these two important questions: Why do we celebrate Memorial Day? And how can we celebrate it to honor and remember our fallen heroes?
Why We Celebrate Memorial Day
Formerly known as Decoration Day, this holiday started out in the 1800s when people would decorate the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers with flowers, flags, and wreaths. The first national observance was on May 30th, 1868 at the Arlington National Cemetery to commemorate and pay tribute to the more than 20,000 soldiers buried there. What began as a special day to remember those fallen in the American Civil War became a legal holiday to honor every fallen hero that served in our Armed Forces.
The words spoken by former Union General James A. Garfield during that first national observance in 1868 still ring true today:
“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”
Memorial Day is a special occasion for America because it is when we celebrate the men and women that made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of the freedom we enjoy today. We celebrate Memorial Day to pay homage to the heroes who sacrificed their lives so that we may live ours in peace with the ones we love. In recognizing this highest of all sacrifices, it is vital not just to celebrate the holiday with friends and family, but to embrace and acknowledge the fallen.
How Can We Celebrate Memorial Day
Thankfully, there are many ways to celebrate Memorial Day.
1. Participate in the National Moment of Remembrance:
On Memorial Day, at 3 PM (LOCAL TIME), Americans all over the country pause for 1 minute and give a moment of silence for all our fallen troops.
2. Attend a Memorial Day ceremony:
Find out whether your town has its own Memorial Day parade or ceremony and either attend it with your family and friends or be a volunteer.
3. Visit gravesites and memorials:
A lot of families make special flower arrangements, flags, and other decorations to decorate their relatives’ graves.
4. Help out at a local veterans’ home or hospital:
Although Memorial Day focuses on our fallen troops, we can also show our appreciation for our veterans in homes and hospitals by volunteering, listening to their stories, or helping their families.
5. Raise your flag:
During Memorial Day, people also raise the American flag at half staff until noon. You can also honor soldiers who are prisoners of war or missing in action, by raising the POW/MIA flag under the US flag.
There are many ways to celebrate Memorial Day and countless reasons why we should do it. One of the best ways to truly celebrate the freedom our heroes fought for is encapsulated in this quote from Richelle E. Goodrich:
“On this day, take time to remember those who have fallen. But on every day after, do more; put the freedoms they died for to greater and nobler uses.”
To learn more about Memorial Day and how to celebrate it, here are links you can visit: