Remember, honor the rich history of Memorial Day

This editorial appeared in Wednesday’s edition of the Lahontan Valley News:

On Monday, our national will celebrate Memorial Day.

Although the original intent of the last Monday of May was to honor the soldiers of the Union and Confederacy who died in the Civil War, it has evolved into a day in which we honor the passing of both loved ones and those who served in the military.

The first observance was May 30, 1868. Since 1971, Congress has designated the last Monday in May as Memorial Day. The United States was trying to heal itself from four bitter years of fighting during the Civil War. Nearly a half-million soldiers perished. Three years after the end of the Civil War, the Grand Army of the Republic established what was called Decoration Day to give family members and friends a time to mourn the deceased and decorate their graves with flowers.

The first Memorial Day event at Arlington National Cemetery drew about 5,000 people, the same number who will attend the ceremony this year.

After World War I, Memorial Day was expanded to recognize men and women who died in all American wars. Americans also use the day to remember their deceased friends and relatives.

Unfortunately, too many Americans forget the true meaning of Memorial Day and use the extended weekend to jump-start the summer.

We lost nearly 176,000 servicemen in World War I, and the number increased to 407,000 during World War II. More than 50,000 Americans lost their lives in Korea and Vietnam, more than 4,000 servicemen and women died in Iraq and 2,200 died in Afghanistan.

So, this Memorial Day weekend, remember those who have given their lives for this country so you can enjoy your freedoms. Thank those who currently serve; they, too, have put their lives on the line, ready to deploy overseas and willing to put their lives in harm’s way.


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