Memorial Day: It's Not Just a 3 Day Weekend

To me, Memorial Day has always meant cookouts, three day weekends, and the first dip in the pool. It meant getting to wear white again, playing with my cousins in the yard, and school being over. To many, Memorial Day means the first lake weekend of the season, or a trip to the beach. Or maybe to you, Memorial Day is the weekend to score deals on mattresses or washing machine (apparently home appliances are always on sale this weekend).  

But most of us don't think of Memorial Day for what it is meant to be: a holiday to remember those who died serving in the US military.

Memorial Day: It's Not Just a 3 Day Weekend

I know, that's sobering to think about. Especially for those of you who may have had one too many Bloody Marys with brunch. But y'all, this holiday is about these men and women. The ones who gave their lives so we could drink too many drinks on the beach and spend a weekend with our loved ones eating burgers. And there are many, many of these men and women buried all over the world.

The grave of Theodore Roosevelt Jr, who is buried in Normandy, France

The grave of Theodore Roosevelt Jr, who is buried in Normandy, France

For those of you who don't know, here is a brief history of Memorial Day. It is (obviously) an American holiday and was originally known as Decoration Day. It began just after the Civil War and was initially created to honor only those who served in the Civil War. As years passed by (and the US got itself into more wars) the holiday began to recognize all those lives lost in any military engagement. Memorial Day didn't become an official federal holiday in 1971; at that time it was decided to celebrate the last Monday in May (so federal employees could have a three day weekend) instead of May 30th as it was done in the previous hundred years.  And of course, we all know it now unofficially it marks the beginning of summer.

For those of us who have no real ties to anyone in the military, it's easy for us to just look at this weekend as a nice little break from work. And there's nothing wrong with spending our Memorial weekends at the lake or having a cookout with friends and family this weekend. But we should all try to remember the real reason for the holiday too. We should remember the men and women who died for our country. We should remember those out there serving right now. We should never forget that our freedom didn't come free. 

A Star of David marking the grave of a US soldier in the Normandy American Cemetery in Normandy, France

A Star of David marking the grave of a US soldier in the Normandy American Cemetery in Normandy, France