The real purpose of Memorial Day is to remember the sacrifices of the men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. There is a genuine sobriety to this day by the sheer nature of its name. The fact that we take time to remember our military loved ones means they didn’t return from duty; they paid a price that we can only imagine. I love hotdogs and hamburgers as much as anyone but this day is about carrying on the memory and legacy of others who will never see another day.
The origins of this holiday stretch back to the years following the Civil War, when local townspeople would plant flowers and decorate the graves of soldiers who had died in those battles. Ultimately, the U.S. government standardized the date and, over the years, the tradition expanded to honor soldiers lost in subsequent wars.
Our focus on the start of summer, the joy of a long weekend and the opening of the backyard grill means we often lose sight of the purpose and origins of the holiday. The wars that we have been fighting since 9/11 have been fought by volunteer armies and by technological advances that help insulate many of us from direct impact. I think the best way to honor these men and women is to live a life worthy of their sacrifices.
This weekend, as we all enjoy time with family and friends, let’s take a few minutes to remember the sacrifices that make it possible for us to enjoy our freedoms. Bring your children to a Memorial Day parade. Visit a war memorial. Read the names on the plaque and think of the families that were forever changed by the loss of that individual. It’s important that we remember why we have a Memorial Day holiday and honor those who fought for our freedom and who, by their sacrifice, have earned our eternal gratitude.