90 Miles From Tyranny : How You Can Honor the Fallen This Memorial Day

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Monday, May 27, 2019

How You Can Honor the Fallen This Memorial Day

This extended weekend marks the 151st anniversary of that first “Memorial Day” remembrance, when Congressman James Garfield—who would later become president—addressed a crowd of more than 5,000 at Arlington Cemetery.

The tradition continues to this day at national cemeteries across the nation, with the president of the United States most often delivering the address and laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

To millions of Americans, Memorial Day symbolizes the unofficial start of summer—the opening of the local community pool, baseball games, concerts, barbecues, and trips to the beach.

Regrettably, a Gallup poll in 2000 revealed that only 28 percent of Americans knew the true meaning of Memorial Day, and 40 percent confused it with Veterans Day.

So, what is the meaning of Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is the day to remember those men and women who died while serving in our nation’s armed forces, whereas Veterans Day is a day to celebrate the service of all U.S. military veterans.

Why have so many Americans lost sight of the true meaning and observance of Memorial Day? Some would argue it began with the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, which moved Memorial Day from its traditional date of May 30 to the last Monday in May.

Many veterans organizations, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars, still oppose that move, stating that the creation of the three-day weekend has diluted the focus of the day from solemn reflection on, and tribute to, those who sacrificed their lives in defense of our nation and led to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.

Memorial Day began at the national level on May 30, 1868, as Decoration Day, with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery to honor fallen Civil War soldiers. This tradition continued to grow, and following World War I, Decoration Day became a day of remembrance of all soldiers, sailors, and Marines who died in service to their nation, not just the Civil War.

It was not until after World War II that the holiday became more popularly known as Memorial Day.

In his 1868 call to celebrate Decoration Day as a national holiday, Maj. Gen. John Logan stated eloquently:

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