On the last Monday in May, Americans honor those men and women who answered their nation’s call to duty and lost their lives in service to their country.
“America has been forged in the battle and the fires of war,” said President Joe Biden. “Our freedom and the freedom of innumerable others has been secured by young men and women who answered the call of history and gave everything in the service of an idea: the idea of America.”
And it is every year on Memorial Day that we remember the sacrifices made by the few to benefit the many, a recognition of their contribution to the defense of the United States and its ideals.
The Memorial Day Observance goes back to the late 1860s, as the country recovered from a devastating civil war. In 1868, three years after the conflict ended but while the losses of loved ones were still painfully raw, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of a Union veterans’ group, proclaimed May 30 to be a day for honoring the 620,000 or more American soldiers killed in the Civil War, by decorating their graves with flowers. After the First World War, fought just half a century later, Decoration Day, as it was known up to this point, was re-dubbed Memorial Day and came to be observed in honor of those who had died in all U.S. conflicts, everywhere.
“War and conflict, death and loss are not relics of our American history; they’re a part of Americans’ story. Here in Arlington [National Cemetery] lie heroes who gave what President Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.”
“They did not only die at Gettysburg or in Flanders Field or on the beaches of Normandy, but in the mountains of Afghanistan, the deserts of Iraq in the last 20 years,” said President Joe Biden.
“And on this Memorial Day, we honor their legacy and their sacrifice. Duty, honor, country — they lived for it, they died for it. And we, as a nation, are eternally grateful.”