We have all seen Jay Leno or other TV comedians conduct street interviews and have laughed at the answers solicited on the simple questions posed by the interviewer.
If you were to ask your family members, particularly your children the reason we celebrate Memorial Day, I would bet that you would be surprised by the answers you get. How do their answers compare to the facts?
The Grand Army of the Republic started the tradition following the Civil War when on May 30 each year they decorated the graves of the fallen Civil War veterans with flowers. The tradition continued on a voluntary basis until the 1890s, when all Northern states began celebrating Memorial Day on May 30. The National Holiday Act of 1971 altered the dedicated May 30 Memorial Day tradition to the last Monday of May so that we could have a three-day weekend.
With this well intended change Memorial Day has lost its meaning and few people understand the true purpose of the day.
Since 1775 the U.S. has been actively involved in 62 military actions in which 1,321,612 men and women have died in the defense of our country. Few people, outside family members and close friends, remember their names.
Decoration/Memorial Day was established for the sole purpose of honoring those who have died serving in uniform during wartime. We have all heard the line that “Freedom is not Free.” These men and women gave their all so that we can enjoy the lives we lead. Memorial Day is the one day of the year that we can, as a nation, collectively honor these true heroes of the Republic.
On Monday I hope that you enjoy your day off work, family celebrations, camping or other parties that you have scheduled. I also encourage you to attend the Memorial Day services at city hall, take in a local parade or, at the very least, take a few moments to reflect on the sacrifices some have given for the freedoms you enjoy.
James Knautz lives in Hazel Green.