On Monday of next week we will all be celebrating Memorial Day, but what is Memorial Day and why do we celebrate it?

Memorial Day is a holiday to remember and honor the people who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. While the origin of Memorial Day is controversial, it is believed to have started sometime before the Civil War.

Some historians say that the ancient custom of placing flowers on a soldier’s grave is where the holiday originated. The custom became known as Decoration Day, which is still held around parts of the US, mainly the south.

Early Decoration Days, from the 1800s, eventually evolved to become Memorial Day and included honoring all Americans who died while in the United States Military.

Currently, Memorial Day is celebrated on Mondays, however, it was previously observed on May 30 from 1868-1970. In June of 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday.

The change was made in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The law took effect in 1971. It took several years for all 50 states to adapt to the new law, as there was confusion and unwillingness to comply.

In 2002 the Veterans of Foreign Wars stated, “Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed a lot to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”

Memorial Day is more than a three-day weekend. It is more than Monday morning sleep-ins and afternoon barbecues. It is more than an afternoon on the lake or relaxing in the yard.

The holiday is to honor those we lost while serving our country. It is to remember the ones we will never have the opportunity to laugh with again, cry with again or hold close. The day is to provide a moment of silence to those who paid the ultimate price so we may enjoy the conveniences so many others may never know.

We should be thankful for our local VFW and American Legion posts. These two organizations work together to provide assistance to our local veterans and service members. The organizations have also worked tirelessly to plan, design and construct the new Veterans Memorial Park.

Take some time this weekend to visit the Veterans Memorial Park. The dedication is today at 10 a.m. You may have missed the dedication, but you certainly have the opportunity to visit the Honor Wall and set aside a few moments to browse the names of those who were killed in action from Jackson County.

President Ronald Reagan said this in is Memorial Day speech on May 31, 1982 at Arlington National Cemetery, “As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish: that no other generation of young men will ever have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice.”

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