Memorial Day began as a simple observance of our heroes. Declared by Maj. Gen. John A. Logan as Decoration Day in 1868, the unofficial holiday was intended to furnish the graves of soldiers with flowers, flags, and recognition. “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance,” Logan explained. “Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
But there is more to today than merely proclaiming that the lives of so many soldiers were not lost in vain. The Athenian leader Pericles once said “Not only are [our heroes] commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.” After all, a soldier’s last full measure of devotion, paid in defense of his country, is a sacrifice that is placed largely upon the shoulders of his loved ones.
Today we are obliged to soothe the cries of the widow, the child, the mother, and the father who have lost their beloved in defense of our liberty. Memorial Day is designed to let the bereaved take solace in knowing that their mourning is not in isolation, or without gratitude.
A handful of men and women are asked, every generation, to lay down the ultimate sacrifice at the altar of freedom. These people are known as soldiers. And their families should be known as heroes. Today is dedicated to remembering them both.
Have a safe Memorial Day!