The observance before us on Monday is many things to many people: a day off, a break from school, a point on the calendar. For many more, it is a solemn day of dedication.
Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.
For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
But it is more than just a holiday, or should be.
“After Memorial Day” is a refrain many of us hear, or say ourselves: The solemn date often translates to the unofficial term for the start of summer.
It’s time to think of Before Memorial Day, and the lives of the men and women who served our country and provided the ultimate sacrifice. Before their service, they were young men and women with dreams and goals. Before their service, they had first names, and after their service they had ranks or titles to go with their names.
Before their deaths, they were living beings who might have come home. After their deaths, they remain family members but those we remember with sadness as well as gratitude.
Before Memorial Day, on Memorial Day, and after, take a moment to honor those who served, and reflect on their service as well as the affects of their lives, and deaths, on their families and loved ones.
“Monday is Memorial Day — an observance to honor those who have paid the ultimate price to ensure our freedom,” starts the apt expression in Friday’s email statement from the folks at Mt. Hood Meadows:
“We hope you can take some time this weekend to reflect on what the sacrifice of others means for us. Perhaps attend a ceremony. Visit a vet and thank him or her for the service they provided to our country. Share stories of freedom with your kids to pass on the tradition.
“Perhaps the greatest tribute we can pay to those who have so unselfishly given is to appreciate the freedom they have provided us. Get out and recreate this weekend. Get active — enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and celebrate those things that we often take for granted. Share it with friends and family.”