James Gilbert, director of the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council, asks that we all remember the reason for the Memorial Day holiday.
Memorial Day, which falls on the last Monday of May, honors the men and women who died while serving in the American military. It is a day for Americans to offer tribute and honor to the heroes who laid down their lives to preserve freedom.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves. Officially proclaimed Decoration Day on May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan, Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
In 1882, the name Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day to honor those killed during the Civil War. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.
On this Memorial Day, as you enjoy the day with family and friends, I ask that you take a moment and reflect upon the true meaning of this holiday. In December 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance resolution requesting all Americans stop what they are doing at precisely 3 p.m. on Memorial Day and observe a moment of silence. I ask each of you to join me this Memorial Day by observing this moment of silence and reflect upon the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who gave all for the freedoms we hold so dearly.
It has been said that, “Poor is the Nation that has no heroes, but beggared is the Nation that has and forgets them.” Those we honor this Memorial Day answered their call to duty and, in doing so, they honored us. We owe them our deep and profound gratitude, and we must pass that sense of obligation on to the next generation.