It is here!! That official weekend that kicks off summer. A federal holiday that gives many of us a guilt-free Monday off. BBQs, camping trips, fun runs and parades. We Americans do love our celebrations.
What is Memorial Day? According to a collection of articles I found on the subject, sometime in 1868 a Union General called for a nationwide day of remembrance to be on May 30, a date chosen because it was not the anniversary of a particular battle. It was meant to honor those lost in the civil war. After World War I, the holiday evolved to commemorate fallen military personnel in all wars. In 1950 Congress passed a resolution requesting that the President issue a proclamation calling on Americans to observe Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace. In 2000, President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act which asks Americans to pause and observe a National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. local time on the last Monday in May. A number of organizations throughout the country observe this moment including Amtrak, whose trains blow their whistles, Major League Baseball, and NASCAR. It is a day when graves are cleaned and adorned with fresh flowers or flags. I feel a bit sheepish that I have lived to be so old before realizing the point of this holiday. It made me stop and think how much we take our freedoms for granted, possibly never giving thought to the countless Americans who have, who are, and who will pay the ultimate price of their very lives so that we can continue to live free in this country. Heated political climate, controversies and violent disagreements distract from the fact that we live in a country where we have the freedom to have heated political climates, controversies and violent disagreements, as well as the freedom to worship whatever God we choose and the free choice to completely run amok if that is our bent. My better-late-than-never research steeped me in gratitude. Grateful to have been born here and so unspeakably grateful to those Americans who continue to answer the call to serve in our military. They must come home from their experiences in other lands and see us so ungrateful for the privileges we think we are merely entitled to.
Here’s to wishing everyone a fun and safe holiday weekend. Take a moment and think about three things you are grateful for on this lovely day in May. And then try to imagine what your gratitude might look like if those who died fighting for our freedoms had said no to the call instead of yes.
“In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt