Memorial Day, originally know as Decoration Day, is one of remembrance for those who have died in the service of our nation. Although there are many stories about when and where the holiday began, it was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers.
During the first national celebration, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.
Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery each year with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Traditionally, the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In any given year about 5,000 people are in attendance.
Memorial Day, perhaps more than any other American holiday, causes us to look deep within ourselves in a fundamental attempt to make sense of life and our place in the word.
What we have been given, what we will do with it and what we will pass to the next generation is all part of an unfolding history, a continuum that links one soul to another.
For me, Memorial Day this year has a special meaning. My father, a Korean War Veteran, died unexpected last month. Although he never spoke much about it, my brothers and sisters and I all agree his experiences in combat helped mold him into the diligent and committed leader that he become for his family.
His funeral, complete with military honors, is a day that will remain with me forever and provide a sense of pride I did not really consider before that day.
As this year’s Memorial Day festivities wind down, I invite you to enjoy and reflect on this video visit to some of the nation’s most hallowed grounds.