Did you know that Memorial Day in the United States was originally called Decoration Day and originated for Civil War soldiers? For many decades after the Civil War, northern and southern states honored their fallen soldiers separately. The service changed after World War I to Memorial Day and included all fallen soldiers who served in the U.S. military. In 1971, Congress designated the service as a national, 3 day holiday weekend. Since then, it has expanded to signify the beginning of summer fun. On American television this weekend, you can re-watch countless war movies. While spending time with family and friends is valuable, it is crucial to remember what the holiday is truly about.
As a history teacher, I spend a lot of time discussing the cause and effects of war and its ramifications to individuals, families, communities, and nations. Today, I would like to share that I am part of a long military tradition. I am a member of the DAR whose ancient relative was a drummer boy in the Revolutionary War. Another relative was a Colonel and Civil War doctor. My step-father served in the Korean War as a UDT for the Navy. My father served in Vietnam. My ex and I served in the Navy. My niece, nephew, and daughter served in the Navy. Fortunately, we all came out of our tours of duty relatively unscathed until my son. For the Army, he served two tours in Iraq and was involved in a hummer crash. As a parent, seeing him and other wounded warriors at the Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland and the Richmond, VA brain trauma facility was humbling and excruciating.
This weekend I am not listening to controversy and the trend of the media to swim in the gray waters of governmental condemnation. This weekend, I thank my son, and all the wounded warriors. I thank those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. While it is nice we sit comfortably in our recliners watching war movies on television or throwing our Frisbee at the picnic or attending ball games and celebrating the beginning of summer, it is most important we pay homage to our fallen soldiers.
While it is worrisome and depressing to focus upon the tragedies and futility of engaging war, it is also a fact our freedom for which we enjoy today comes to us with a precious price tag. I am grateful to the wounded warriors and those soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for my behalf. I highly recommend watching the annual Memorial Day commemoration on national television set in Washington D.C. It’s hosted every year by Gary Sinese and is a moving experience.