History of Memorial Day

For many Americans, Memorial Day is the unofficial first day of summer marked by barbecues, family gatherings and pool openings. The day is sometimes looked upon as just another day to celebrate. However, it is a day that comes with a high price. A price paid in American lives in sacrifice to the freedoms and traditions for which its citizens are accustomed. Not to be confused with Veteran’s Day, the last Monday of May is dedicated to the men and women who gave their all for their country. After the Civil War, this day was known as Decoration Day. Started by a Civil war veteran, General John A. Logan, it has not been established when the change in name took place; however, this became a federal holiday in 1971. On the very first Decoration Day, the graves in Arlington National Cemetery were decorated in remembrance.

Growing up in the United States, Andrew Napolitano has witnessed many of the traditions associated with Memorial Day. Cities and towns scattered throughout the United States have dedicated parades each year to honor the fallen. Hometowns across the U.S. show gratitude with yellow ribbons, flags, flowers and wreaths, leaving a sense of oneness and overflowing patriotism in its wake. Other towns visit cemeteries in mass and pay tribute. A program titled “Wreaths Across America” accepts donations and ensures that every veteran grave has a wreath by coordinating ceremonies. Nationally, a moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time for all to reflect upon the value of freedom. The displays of recognition simultaneously acknowledge the past in gratitude for the future.

America’s conflict-filled history and future is painted with the blood of its service members. Mothers, Daughters, Fathers, Sons, Aunts, Uncles, Wives and Husbands are deployed in vast numbers to this day. Its military has engaged in some of the deadliest conflicts in its pursuit of freedom. Current day, almost 970,000 veterans return from conflict with some sort of disability and some never return at all, leaving a gaping wound in the hearts of their loved ones. For each service member that is killed, there is a story and a life behind and outside of that uniform—a future that has been cut short for the greater cause. Not only is this day a tribute to those service members who lost their lives, but also to their families that pay the cost.

Though it is a somber occasion, it is still cause to celebrate. The United States is one of the world’s largest volunteer military organizations. The members of the United States Armed Forces are paid and receive benefits in serving. However, it is the belief that this is a country worth dying for that keeps many in its ranks. The military comprises nearly 1.4 million members. Many more will continue to enlist in service to the red, white and blue, and some will give their lives for it. This May, like the vast majority of fellow Americans, Andrew Napolitano will be honoring the American heroes who gave their lives, and also reflecting upon the cost of freedom.