Memorial Day: A Time to Reflect on Our Values

For many, Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff of summer, a time when friends and family get together for picnics and backyard barbecues.

But this holiday is more than just fun and games. It’s a day to reflect and remember the brave soldiers who gave their lives for America’s values and freedom.

To truly honor the day, we have to understand its meaning and history. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed by General John Logan on May 5, 1868 and was observed later that month on May 30 when flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington Cemetery.

By 1890, the holiday became recognized by all the northern states. Yet it wasn’t until after World War I that Memorial Day changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died fighting in all our wars.

Over the years, though, the traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished. Just go to any old cemetery and you’ll likely see neglected graves of fallen soldiers.

This Memorial Day, I encourage you to return to the true meaning of the holiday. Mark the day by honoring the men and women who served our country by doing the following, as suggested in Time magazine:

- Put flags or flowers on the graves of soldiers.  

- Fly the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon.

- Visit monuments dedicated to soldiers, sailors and marines.

- Participate in a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time.

- March in a parade.

Enjoy the day. But don’t forget to honor our fallen heroes.

Richard VanHouten is the founder and CEO of Veterans Support Organization. 

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