Memorial Day, our most solemn national holiday, will take place this weekend.
It is symptomatic of our national culture that for most Americans, the true meaning of Memorial Day has long been lost amidst the excesses of our materialistic society. Since the 1960s, when Congress voted to make it part of a three-day weekend, Memorial Day has come to symbolize the start of the summer season, rather than a day to remember the supreme sacrifice made by an estimated one million of our fellow citizens who died in the line of duty in order to maintain the unique freedoms we enjoy as Americans.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars put that sentiment this way in a 2002 Memorial Day Address:
“Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed a lot to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”
So yes, we urge all of our fellow citizens to make the most of a day off from work (for many of us, at least), whether it be to shop for a bargain, indulge in a cookout with friends and family, or just relax.
But in some small way, all of us should pause and find the time to remember exactly why we have a Memorial Day and to give our silent thanks for the sacrifices made by a million of our fellow citizens on the battlefield in order that we have the freedom to observe a day that they made possible.