Memorial Day is a holiday that takes on many faces. For a majority of Americans, this is the long weekend of May focused on friends, family, and no work or school. For many, it is a time to acknowledge the men and women who have given their lives in defending our freedoms. But for Episcopal students it feels like just another day at the Holy Hill.
Memorial Day dates back to the period following the American Civil War. At the time it was known as Decoration Day and would be celebrated on May 30. The very first Decoration Day in 1868 involved the decorating of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers’ graves buried at Arlington National Cemetery with both American and Confederate Flags. In the following years, people continued to visit the graves of family and friends who gave their lives on both sides of the conflict. This was no time to celebrate any specific battle but a time to acknowledge those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Despite not becoming a national Holiday, Decoration Day was created to bring the nation closer together by celebrating those who died on the battlefield. Following World War I, the term Memorial Day was now phasing out Decoration Day. Also, the day would be used to honor servicemen who died in all wars, instead of just the Civil War. For the next few decades, Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30; however, in 1971 Congress’ bill officially went into effect making the last Monday in May Memorial Day, giving Federal Workers a three-day weekend, and making Memorial Day a National Holiday.
In the United States, we have a lot to be thankful for. We go about our everyday life without thinking about the men and women who have died for our security and freedom. We must acknowledge those who gave it all for us to have something. Roughly 1.4 million Americans have paid the ultimate sacrifice, and that number is still climbing. Memorial Day is meant to honor more than just the long weekend, it is a time to honor those who were unable to make it back from the battlefield. Reagan states it perfectly in his Memorial Day speech, “As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation.”