Memorial Day: remembering what it's really about

Memorial Day, first observed in 1868, is about remembering those who gave their lives so we might enjoy ours.

By , Guest blogger

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    A man sits alone at Arlington West, a memorial display with hundreds of crosses and other religious symbols representing service people killed in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, sponsored by Veterans for Peace, on the beach at Santa Monica, Calif., May 29, 2011.
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I want to wish two things this Memorial Day for all of my readers and friends.

1. That you get to spend this time with the people you love and don't get to see during the week quite as much as you'd like to.

2. That you keep in mind what Memorial Day is actually about. It is about honoring those who have fallen while defending our country. The holiday's origins date back to May 5th 1868:

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On May 5, 1868, Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, officially proclaimed the holiday, and on May 30 of that year, flowers were first placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

As you read this we have soldiers abroad doing what their country has asked of them in both Iraq and Afghanistan. These wars have been going on for a decade now and while casualties have been kept low compared to other historical conflicts, it is important to remember that not all of our troops will be coming home.

In the Afghanistan War we have lost 1594 American soldiers since 2001. Last year was the deadliest year of the Afghan War for US troops since it began, we lost 499 men and women in 2010.

The Iraq War, which began in 2003, has cost us a total of 4454 lives thus far and countless injuries. Thankfully, the amount of US troop casualties in Iraq peaked in 2007 and has declined each year since.

So please, while enjoying your barbecues and vacations and swimming pools and quality time with your families, remember those who have sacrificed everything so that we could continue to do so.

***

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, 1915

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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