Save some time this holiday to honor nation’s war dead
Sadly enough, many Americans unintentionally will disrespect the true meaning and purpose of today’s solemn national holiday.
After all, ever since 1971 when Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be observed on the fourth Monday in May, for many, the holiday is simply the final day of a long weekend dedicated to the start of summer fun and frolic.
For far too many of us, Memorial Day’s primary purpose has been corrupted. The day has become one to celebrate the unofficial start of summer, a day to fire up that shiny new grill for outdoor barbecues, a day to cool off or catch rays at the beach or simply a day off work to sleep and squander away.
Others tend to confuse today’s holiday with Veterans Day in November. Veterans Day marks a nation’s homage to all men and women – living and dead – who have served in the armed forces in the nation’s 10 major wars over the past 242 years.
Memorial Day is much more narrowly defined. It’s the day that the nation sets aside to gratefully remember and soberly honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. It is also a day to comfort and support the family members the fallen have left behind.
President Donald J. Trump, in his official 2018 proclamation of this American holiday, reinforces those purposes. He declares, “On Memorial Day, we pause in solemn gratitude to pay tribute to the brave patriots who laid down their lives defending peace and freedom while in military service to our great Nation. We set aside this day to honor their sacrifice and to remind all Americans of the tremendous price of our precious liberty.”
Sacrifice and selflessness indeed remain the watchwords of Memorial Day. That’s why it’s so incredibly important that we take time out from our bronzing, our swimming and our grilling to pause to remember to respect the rightful purpose of today.
OBSERVE HOLIDAY APPROPRIATELY
Like other presidents before him, Trump, in his proclamation for today’s holiday, offers concrete advice for marking Memorial Day appropriately.
He asks that we pause in whatever we’re doing and wherever we’re doing it at precisely 3 p.m. local time today to join in the National Moment of Remembrance. Each Memorial Day at that hour, 200 Amtrak trains blast their whistles, approximately 500,000 Major League Baseball fans are joined in silence, and countless other participants make a vow to remember in their own ways.
In addition, the president also has renewed the observance of this holiday as a day of prayer for permanent peace. Regardless of one’s religious affiliation or lack thereof, Americans are asked to pause to pray or meditate at 11 a.m. today for a world without war and the human carnage it begets.
As the president put it, “On this day, let us also unite in prayer for lasting peace in our troubled world so that future generations will enjoy the blessings of liberty and independence.”
In addition to marking those two moments in time, Americans can fittingly honor this holiday in other ways as well. They can fly their flags appropriately at half-staff until noon. They can take part in numerous parades and services in the Mahoning Valley and beyond. Or they can reflect back on the origins of Memorial Day, earlier known as Decoration Day, by cleaning and decorating the gravestones of U.S. veterans.
Saving a few meaningful moments today for praying, remembering or honoring our fallen soldiers is the least a grateful nation can do to memorialize and pay homage to the service of its 1.2 million Americans who have died in U.S. combat missions from freeing colonists from stern British rule in the 18th century to lessening the threat and horrors of global terrorism in the 21st century.