Good morning and welcome to Summit Up, the world’s only daily column contemplating the real meaning of Memorial Day.
The holiday ” originally called “Decoration Day” ” started out in the 1860s as a way to honor the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. The former Confederacy, it seems, already had plenty of memorial days to honor their dead, even before the nationwide holiday was conceived.
Waterloo, N.Y., hosted the first “Decoration Day,” and for a number of years, many Southern states refused to celebrate the day in conjunction with their former enemies.
Eventually, the South fell in step, and May 30 was observed across the country as a day to sing patriotic songs, have parades, wave flags, and visit cemeteries ” all to honor those who gave their lives in service to the nation.
Somewhere in the 1880s, the name “Memorial Day” first came into use, but the alternative term didn’t become common until after World War II. In 1968, the holiday, now officially known as “Memorial Day,” was moved from its traditional date of May 30 to the “last Monday in May” by congressional order.
Perhaps because it’s always a three-day weekend, many Americans now think of the holiday as the beginning of summer, an excuse to have a picnic, or, since 1911, the opportunity to watch the Indy 500. This nonchalance toward the holiday’s original meaning disturbs some groups like the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Every year since 2000, U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye ” a World War II veteran ” has introduced a bill to return Memorial Day to May 30.
While we don’t necessarily think the holiday needs to be moved, we do like to take a few minutes to think about its meaning. We want to remember the privileges we have as Americans, and we can’t help but feel grateful for these freedoms. We try to take some time to consider what we do in our own lives to exercise the freedoms won for us by our country’s fallen soldiers.
Our war dead may be gone from this earth, but we won’t forget them. To paraphrase the official military death notice, we’d like to say to all who have been lost: “On behalf of a grateful nation, we salute you.”
It’s Friday, and we’re out, counting our blessings.
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