Today is Memorial Day.
For many people, it is a time to welcome the summer season by taking advantage of a three-day holiday weekend to spend relaxing time with friends and family.
It is important, however, not to forget what this day is truly about.
Beginning soon after the Civil War, a day in May was set aside as a time to decorate with flowers the graves of the war dead. The original stimulus for this day of remembrance came from the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union Army Civil War veterans. For many years it was called Decoration Day.
Honoring those who gave their lives in the service of the nation is a duty Americans should gladly accept. Fortunately, most do. Therefore, it is not surprising that by the early 20th century many states and localities had made such observances official.
In 1971, an act of Congress made Memorial Day a national holiday to be observed throughout the nation annually. The older Decoration Day terminology is still widely used, and the practice of decorating graves with floral arrangements has remained very much a part of the tradition.
The ultimate sacrifice made by soldiers who have fallen while serving our country should be honored in perpetuity. Even long after all those Americans who knew these patriots have also joined them in death, it is fitting and proper that subsequent generations pause to reflect on these lives cut short.
The pleasures this holiday weekend affords and, more importantly, the incalculable daily blessing of living in a free land were paid for in part with the blood of American soldiers. Some walked among us only yesterday. For them tears are still being shed. The names of others are now the province only of historians and archivists. All deserve our thanks and should be in our thoughts this Memorial Day.
Throughout our region, many communities will observe Memorial Day according to local custom and tradition. We urge our readers to participate in those observances.
And at some point during this solemn day, take a private moment to reflect and remember.