Fat-free potato chips and low-calorie onion dip may grace your picnic table this Memorial Day. Or maybe an ice-cold beer is your perfect accompaniment to the spirit of freedom that dances across your weed-free yard. And nothing says “barbeque” more than an extra day off of work, but sometimes the food and drink takes the spotlight away from the real reason for the celebration. We must not forget the brave men and women who gave their lives so we can feel safe reveling on our shaded back patios.
For some, Memorial Day is just another unmemorable day that makes for a three-day weekend. For others, it is simply an opportunity to try their hand at baking a deep dish apple pie for a neighbor. While many Americans have a sense of disconnect to the idea of war, few gravely understand first hand the sacrifice it takes to have enough nerve to stand up for what they believe.
Instead of stockpiling the turkey hotdogs or turning grandma’s bean dip into the highlight of the day, take a moment to sit quietly and give gratitude to those who died at war. You don’t have to listen to Taps, but you can be sensitive to the real reason for this special American holiday.
Born in 1868 out of the aftermath of the Civil War, (a war fueled by a disagreement in the ethics of slavery and forced labor,) Memorial Day was created as a way to honor those who died fighting for what they believed. Whether a patriot of the northern Union or on the side of the southern Confederacy, all soldiers were deemed deserving of a bit of remembrance by having their graves decorated with flowers. May 30, first known as Decoration Day, was the first chosen day to adorn the graves because of the abundance of spring flowers in bloom across the country.
It wasn’t until 1971 that Memorial Day became a national holiday, although every year from its induction, people have taken time off to decorate the graves of deceased soldiers, from the Civil War to the latest atrocity in Iraq. In addition to decorating graves, parades and picnics have also become a part of the American culture as a way to honor and remember those who took their last breath on the battlefield.