Memorial Day started as what was called "Decoration Day" to remember the 600,000 Americans who died during the Civil War. People would decorate the graves of the dead and honor their memory. [history of the holiday here.]
Later on, it became an unofficial start to summer with many people focusing not on honoring war dead, but on having a holiday with their families. But the traditions of the original holiday live on.
My hope is that while families are out enjoying the holiday they will also reflect for a time on the sacrifice by our fallen soldiers that makes their lives of relative ease and prosperity possible. Many words have been written and spoken to express the debt we owe these men and women. None better than Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address. Offered below is a reading of Lincoln's short, moving speech by actor Sam Waterston. Also included is the Battle Hymn of the Republic and America the Beautiful provided by the U.S. Air Force Band.
David Matthews of Pack 308 places a flag on a grave at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery May 26, 2007 in Louisville, Kentucky. Boy Scouts from the Seneca District and the Lincoln Heritage Council, which represents the Louisville area, participated in the flag placing. This was the 25th year that scouts have been placing flags on the graves at the cemetery.
PRESIDENT REAGAN: Lisa Zanatta Henn began her story by quoting her father, who promised that he would return to Normandy. She ended with a promise to her father, who died 8 years ago of cancer: ``I'm going there, Dad, and I'll see the beaches and the barricades and the monuments. I'll see the graves, and I'll put flowers there just like you wanted to do. I'll feel all the things you made me feel through your stories and your eyes. I'll never forget what you went through, Dad, nor will I let anyone else forget. And, Dad, I'll always be proud.''Taking our remembrance into the 21st Century, we have the Pulitzer Prize winning series "Final Salute" which ran in the Rocky Mountain News in 2005. Reporter Jim Sheeler and photographer Todd Heisler spent a year with the Marines stationed at Aurora's Buckley Air Force Base who have found themselves called upon to notify families of the deaths of their sons in Iraq. It's a sad but moving tribute to our fallen soldiers and a reminder of the toll their deaths take on their families.
A slideshow of the "Final Salute" photographs is available here.
From "Fallen Heroes" a photo essay by Daniel J. Wood. Location: Barrancas National Cemetery, Pensacola Florida.
"There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for another."