For many Americans, the first thought that comes to mind when we hear Memorial Day is the extra day that we get off work or school. While we do have a holiday on the last Monday in May, this day is not about cook outs, pool parties or the start of summer. Memorial Day is a day to recognize fallen service members of the United States Armed Forces and the countless sacrifices made by hundreds of thousands of men, women and their families. It is a day of mourning for loved ones lost in war and is especially meaningful to active duty military, veterans, and family members. Soldiers visit their friend’s headstones at the cemetery to remember and honor them. Flags are placed at each headstone at Arlington National Cemetery and at thousands of other military cemeteries throughout the country.

Memorial Day became a nationally recognized holiday in 1971. It was originally known as Decoration Day and followed the Civil War years. Due to the tremendous loss of life during the Civil War, national cemeteries were established for the first time in America’s history. Americans began decorating gravestones to honor the dead; hence the day was designated as Decoration Day. Following World War I, Memorial Day came to recognize all service members lost in all wars and the name of the holiday shifted. A national moment of remembrance is held at 3:00 pm annually and Americans pause for a moment of silence.

The numbers of Americans who have died fighting wars throughout our history are staggering. According to the Federation of American Scientists, 116,516 Americans were lost in World War I and 405,399 in World War II. In an often-forgotten war, the Korean War, 36,574 Americans perished. 58,220 more soldiers were lost in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. From 1990 to 1991, 383 Americans died in the Persian Gulf War. Most recently, the number of casualties following September 11 from the Global War on Terror is cited as 6,997 service members. Roughly an estimated 645,000 Americans have sacrificed their lives serving this country since World War I, with many unaccounted for or just recently identified. When you step back and read the statistics, the magnitude of loss and significance of Memorial Day becomes clear.

When you are grilling outside and enjoying the warm weather this weekend, take a moment to pause and reflect. Visit a memorial or cemetery, take part in a patriotic parade, wear a red poppy to honor a fallen American or thank a veteran. If you can, visit Washington D.C. and take in the beautiful monuments commemorating those lost. Walk the Arlington National Cemetery grounds where the deceased lie at rest and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier resides. Pay respects to those who have died defending our nation’s freedoms and never forget their sacrifices that safeguard your freedoms as an American.

Laynee V`
CONTRIBUTOR
Laynee is a patriotic conservative living in Chicago. For most of her childhood, she grew up in Seattle and then studied government and politics at Wagner College in New York City. Coming from a military family, she has lived all over America in very blue cities. When she is not studying up on politics, she enjoys volunteering, running, music and spending time with her family.