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In Memoriam

Putting the Memorial Back in Memorial Day

Vietnam Veterans' Memorial in Washington D.C.

The Monday Holiday Bill unfortunately did a lot to strip the true intent from many observances: especially Memorial Day.

If you're too young to remember, Memorial Day was observed on May 30th until Congress shifted it to the last Monday in May. This made for a nice long weekend in which to travel or throw a party. Retailers also love it, with the inevitable furniture, or mattress, or car, or clothing sale coinciding with Memorial Day. 

Many consider it the unofficial kickoff to summer. 

The commercialization of Memorial Day is, I think, a shame. The purpose of the day has largely been lost. Many don't give the significance of it a second thought. Perhaps some don't even know why it's a holiday in the first place.

It's just a long weekend. Party!

Then there are those who characterize it as a day to honor those serving in the military. No, that's Armed Forces Day. Veterans' Day is to honor those who have served.  

Memorial Day is set aside to remember those who died in service.

It began as Decoration Day back in 1868, to honor Union soldiers who had died during the Civil War. To mark the occasion, their graves would be adorned with flowers, hence the word "decoration." Following the First World War, the observance broadened to include all those who had fought and died in service of the country.

Somewhere along the way, Decoration Day started to become known as Memorial Day.

In 1971 it was moved from May 30th to the final Monday in the month.

Whatever you're doing this weekend, remember why Monday is a holiday. It's not to give us one more day at the beach. A day off. More time to vacation. It's not so we can drink a toast to the summer season.

Those things are all great.

But do take a moment or two to think about those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service of the United States. There have been more than 1.35 million of them since the Revolutionary War.

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