Things You May Not Know About Memorial Day

John ThurmanBy John Thurman4 Minutes

What are you planning on doing this Memorial Day weekend?

It will be the official launch of summer. There will be swimming, BBQs, wine festivals, camping, and all types of fun activities.

My wife and I will hit the road to visit our daughter’s family in the beautiful hill country of Texas. I will be praying for your safe travels as I hope you will pray for mine.

With all the commotion of this weekend, it will be easy for us to forget what Memorial Day means.

Memorial Day is for the American troops, men, and women who did not get to come home and drink a beer at a homecoming party or separate from the service and go on with a normal life. They died in the field of combat and their remains are buried on foreign soil, or they returned home under solemn circumstances, inside flag-draped coffins. These men and women will never return a smile or a hand salute, not to mention the family and friends who were left behind.

Veteran’s Day and Armed Force’s Day, by contrast, both honor those among us who have served or are still serving in the military. On those days—and not just those days we reach out to vets and current military members and thank them for wearing the uniform and being prepared to face grave danger.

The first observance of what we now call Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, which started on 30 May 1868. Mourners honored the Civil War dead (both Union and Confederate) by decorating their graves with flowers.

In the years following the Civil War, Memorial Day celebrations were scattered and, perhaps unsurprisingly, took root differently in the North and South. By the late 19th century, many communities across the country had begun to celebrate Memorial Day, and after World War I, observers started honoring the dead of all American Wars. It wasn’t until the end of World War II that the holiday gained a strong following and national identity, and it wasn’t officially named Memorial Day until 1967. When Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Act, it designated Memorial Day as the last Monday in May rather than May 30 this ensured a three-day weekend and gave the day its current status as the unofficial beginning of summer, mixing serious reflection with more lighthearted fun.

In December of 2000, President Clinton signed into law the National Moment of Remembrance Act saying Americans should pause around 3:00 p.m. each Memorial Day and take a moment to remember the fallen and the fact that they died that we might have the freedoms that we have.

As a retired Army Chaplain, this holiday more than any other gives me pause to reflect and realize that every generation since the beginning of the Nation has accepted the challenge of protecting our freedom.

I hope you and your family have a fun, safe Memorial Day weekend, and on Memorial Day around 3:00 p.m. or 1500 hours take a moment to reflect and maybe even offer a prayer of thanks that you and your family live in the great country.

Have a Great Long Weekend, take lots of pics, build lots of memories, put on sunscreen, eat great food, and celebrate the beginning of Summer. But don’t forget to pause at 3:00 and be thankful for the sacrifice that so many made on our behalf.

May God bless you and your families and may God continue to bless this nation.

John Thurman