While we take time to celebrate Memorial Day weekend, it is important that we reflect on what the holiday is truly about. Since the birth of our nation, hundreds of thousands of Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms. As the son, father, brother and uncle of U.S. veterans, I have a heartfelt appreciation for everything our soldiers and their family members sacrifice.
Since the War on Terror began after the September 11 attacks in 2001, more than 6,800 American men and women have died fighting overseas. As recently as this month, a Navy SEAL was killed on a mission protecting foreign forces in a battle against ISIS in Iraq. So this Memorial Day, we must not forget that our service members are still out fighting and dying to protect us, and others, from those who wish to cause harm.
WHAT THE HOLIDAY MEANS
Observed the last Monday of May, Memorial Day honors the men and women who died while answering the call of duty in the U.S. Military. The holiday was originally known as Decoration Day in the years after the Civil War, and became a national holiday in 1971.
In 1885, a druggist in Waterloo wanted to honor the soldiers who died preserving the union and ran the idea by members of the community. After planning and consideration, the members of the community came together and the first Memorial Day ceremony was held in the village of Waterloo in 1866. In 1966, Governor Nelson D. Rockefeller and the U.S. Congress recognized Waterloo for starting the tradition of celebrating fallen service members.
ENJOYING THE LONG WEEKEND
Over time, Memorial Day has become known as the unofficial kick-off to summer. It is an opportunity many people use to open their pools or camps, attend parades and have a barbecue with family and friends. As we take time to do all those things and enjoy the people around us, we must not forget those who have made the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedoms. I encourage everyone to pause for a moment and reflect on the meaning of the holiday and remember America’s heroes.
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