Memorial Day is for mattress sales, right? For most South Carolinians Memorial Day means a three-day weekend, barbecues and maybe a trip to the lake or beach. While there is nothing wrong with that, the reverence with which most Americans observe the holiday’s original intent has steadily eroded.
The National Holiday Act of 1971 made the last Monday in May officially Memorial Day for all American war casualties, no matter the conflict.
Prior to that, May 30 had historically been set aside to recognize those who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. But with the creation of a three-day weekend, our focus has shifted from sacrifice to recreation.
There are those, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, advocating that the original May 30 date be reinstated and that a three-day weekend in honor of Armed Forces Day take its place.
Until then, those who want to do their part to restore the true meaning of Memorial Day can do several things. First is to observe the National Moment of Remembrance, at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day.
Americans are asked to “voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.” Other ideas include: wearing a red poppy, helping educate people about the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, visiting and decorating a grave or memorial and flying the POW/MIA flag.
By all means we should enjoy the time with family and friends this Memorial Day, but each of us has the opportunity to set an example by honoring and remembering those American service members who made the ultimate sacrifice for the freedoms which enable us to do so.