EDITORIAL: Remember reason for Memorial Day

·2 min read

May 28—This weekend's forecast predicts warm, sunny weather perfect for a long weekend — but let's not forget what Memorial Day is about.

Memorial Day is an American holiday observed on the last Monday in May to honor those who died while serving in the U.S. military.

The observance began as Decoration Day in the years immediately after the Civil War.

Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1868 issued General Order No. 11 to set aside May 30 to lay flowers on graves of fallen soldiers.

About 5,000 people helped during the first observance to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Decoration Day gradually became known as Memorial Day and was celebrated on May 30 for decades. But Congress in 1968 passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as a federal holiday on the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971.

Memorial Day is on Monday this year, which will bring parades incorporating military personnel and veterans in cities and town nationwide.

Others observe Memorial Day with visits to cemeteries and memorials. Some wear a red poppy in honor of the fallen — a tradition that arose from a World War I poem.

Ceremonies held over the years often feature a reading of the Gettysburg Address, a speech President Abraham Lincoln delivered at a ceremony dedicating the final resting place for soldiers who died in the Civil War.

"It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this," he said. "But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

Our 16th president suggested the world would forget his speech from that day. But his words are still relevant today, as he called on the nation to keep our "government of the people, by the people, for the people" alive.

Let's take time to enjoy a round of golf, get on a boat or go to the lake, have a cookout with family and friends, and enjoy time this weekend with the unofficial start of the summer.

But let's also take even a brief moment to remember Lincoln's words from nearly two centuries ago. Let's remember the people who gave their lives fighting to ensure our freedom.

—McAlester News-Capital Editorial Board