In the Great Lakes states, Memorial Day means that it’s officially okay to pack up your winter boots, cross country skis and maybe even turn off the heat. It also means a day off of work and that it’s time to dust off the bicycle. A parade, a family picnic – the start of summer! Oh, and of course, it’s now okay to wear white pants and shoes . . . finally!
It seems as though all of our National holidays have a way of doing that. Morphing into a more fun, light-hearted version of what they were really meant to be.
Memorial Day has its origins after the Civil War. The practice of decorating graves of fallen soldiers became popular during the war, and soon after, June 3rd was designated as Decoration Day. After World War I, Decoration Day was renamed Memorial Day, and in 1968 Congress established the last Monday in May as the day to celebrate the national holiday.
So, what is Memorial Day really meant to be and how should we "celebrate" in this day and age? It's not a party. The reality of Memorial Day is actually quite somber. It’s a day to honor the brave men and women who have given their lives to our Nation's service. It's a remembrance of the US soldiers who have died in war, while Veteran's Day is a celebration of those who still serve today. Now, regardless of how you feel about war, our government or politics, a lot of people have died protecting our country. Right or wrong, their lives are still lost. CNN has put together an interactive list, sorted by region, showing 3,300 plus casualties from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our Great Lakes Region is literally speckled with lost heroes.
So while the parties, hot dogs, parades and white pants are nice, and by all means should still continue, let’s do just a little bit more with our Monday off of work. Let’s give 10 minutes of thought, a solemn reflection, into the character of the men and women who have fought and died for our freedom. What did it take for them to offer the ultimate sacrifice for their country? Faith, duty, commitment, heroism and honor all come to mind. While some of us will never choose to be dressed in uniform, we can still carry those same virtues. This year, let us honor the fallen by enjoying Memorial Day and then carry on their legacy of character and bravery in our everyday lives. Please share your comments on what Memorial Day means to you.