For many Americans, Memorial Day symbolizes the unofficial kickoff of summer – a holiday to fire up the grill, put on some baseball, and break out the white shoes (should you care about such fashion rules). Of course, as the name implies, Memorial Day has another, more solemn, purpose – to honor U.S. soldiers who have died in the service of their country.
Memorial Day was first celebrated in 1866 and meant to honor Union soldiers who’d died in the Civil War. I actually have a relative who died in the Battle of Shiloh (the only ancestor of mine whom I’m aware of having died in a war) – my maternal grandfather’s uncle, who was just seventeen when he died. I can’t pretend to feel a great kinship to a relative who died more than 100 years before I was born, but realizing that the holiday was first enacted in response to the great loss of life in the Civil War reminded me that I should take a moment to reflect on the reason for the day off. I plan to grill hamburgers for lunch (hoping for some sunshine!), but I also plan to observe the 3:00 p.m. moment of remembrance in honor of all of our war dead.
What are your plans?