As we approach the Memorial Day weekend in the wake of the heightened sense of patriotism and pride resulting from the demise of Osama Bin Ladin, it’s important that we do so with genuine gratitude.
Originally called “Decoration Day,” the holiday began with a proclamation in 1868 by General John Logan designating May 30th as a day to place flowers on or otherwise decorate the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War. Soon thereafter, the annual tradition of visiting cemeteries and holding parades to honor fallen soldiers in all American wars became widespread.
But it wasn’t declared a national holiday until 1971 when Congress changed the name and moved the date to the last Monday in May, creating a new three-day weekend. Unfortunately, these changes make it easy to forget or ignore the Day’s solemn purpose, and, for many Americans, Memorial Day is just the unofficial beginning of summer (e.g., “the day public pools open”) and an opportunity to stay home from work or school to picnic with soda, beer, and barbecues.
In an attempt to restore the reverential tradition of the day, Congress in 2000 created a National Moment of Remembrance calling on all Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time to observe a minute of silence devoted to contemplation or prayer in honor of our fallen heroes.
I hope you will take at least that minute to reflect on and express gratitude for the immense and immeasurable sacrifice of millions of soldiers who fought for and died protecting the freedoms and privileges we all enjoy. And while you are at it, think about and thank the thousands of American troops who are still in harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.