Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day has its roots in the Civil War when citizens placed flowers on the graves of those killed in battle. After World War I its name changed officially from Decoration Day to Memorial Day to honor those killed in all U.S. wars, and in 1971 it officially became a national holiday “celebrated” on the last Monday in May. I put “celebrated” in quotes, because while we traditionally recognize the day as the first day of summer, and thus a reason to celebrate, its true meaning is of remembrance.
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.”George S. Patton
Patton said it best; we honor those who died by celebrating their sacrifice and by exercising those freedoms that they paid the ultimate price for. In this time of division, another author also said it best:
“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory there would be no civilization, no future.”Elie Wisel
Elie Wiesel (Eliezer Wiesel) was a Romanian-born writer, professor, political activist, and Holocaust survivor. Many of his books detailed his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. Historians credit him with giving true meaning to the word Holocaust through his writings, most notably Night. Because of intolerance, up to 90% of concentration camp arrivals were killed on arrival.
In a time when intolerance poses as tolerance and when racial discrimination is being turned upside down on its head, we should all remember the lessons of the past, and honor the heroes that through their sacrifice have allowed all of us to express ourselves in our own, unique flair regardless of race, gender, orientation, or religion. Honor our living heroes, for there are many that departed without being able to live the life they were fighting for. Celebrate their memory and their sacrifice by living, and realizing we all live the way we think is best, because through their sacrifice, we can.