Monday marks Memorial Day, a national observance first known as Decoration Day. The first Memorial Day was observed on May 30, 1868, on the orders of Gen. John Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
Initially meant as a time to remember those who fell during the bloody battles of our brutal Civil War, the holiday’s significance has been extended to honor all those who paid the ultimate price for our nation.
As they have done every year since 1948, soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment placed flags at more than 280,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They will remain at Arlington National Cemetery throughout the holiday weekend, making sure that the flags remain upright.
Unfortunately, over time Memorial Day weekend has become more of an occasion for relaxation than for reflection about our patriots’ graves and the values for which they gave “the last full measure of devotion.” This weekend I encourage you to do both — relax and reflect.
Have that picnic, hug your kids and have some fun at the beach. But let’s also remind ourselves about what happened at Concord Bridge, on the fields of Antietam and the beaches of Normandy, and that it still requires vigilance and courage to preserve liberty today.
Explain to your children the price that was paid to stop the evil of fascism and the cancer of Soviet communism. Tell them why there was a Berlin Wall, what happened at Okinawa, at Ground Zero and over the fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Explain to them why we still fight in Afghanistan and against the existential threat to Western civilization posed by radical Islamic supremacism.
Take a moment this weekend to teach our children and grandchildren to love the things we love and to honor the things we honor. Finally, let’s remind ourselves that liberty is a gift from God and that each generation has paid in flesh and blood to preserve it.
As Gen. George Patton said: “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”