I started thinking about Memorial Day a few weeks ago. Yes, it’s a holiday, and a day off to relax and enjoy our families and friends. But as I tried to get a grip on it, I realized something really personal was stirring in me and it was more than just an “age thing.” I truly believe my self-actualization as a baby boomer hit dead center, and thoughts of the generation that preceded me, truly “the greatest generation,” was weighing on my mind—particularly my family members who have served our country in the past. I thought of the sacrifices they made to assure us of the freedoms we have today, and of the paths they paved for our prosperity and inalienable rights.
It was at that point I decided to dig a little deeper into the origin and the history of Memorial Day and therefore know more of its roots versus its status as a national holiday observed annually on the last Monday of May. I learned the holiday we celebrate today originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the fallen Union soldiers and was originally known as “Decoration Day.” Although referred to as “Memorial Day” as early as 1882, it wasn’t until after World War II that the reference was more commonly established; Memorial Day was declared the official name by Federal law in 1967. The next year Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved four holidays from their traditional dates to a specific Monday, creating what has been called by some as a “convenient three-day weekend.” Thus, Memorial Day celebrations moved from their traditional May 30th calendar date to a new observation spot—the last Monday in May.
Fast-forward to today, and it is no doubt our country is steeped in rich traditions, and our Memorial Day activities represents many of those. For the recognition of those that gave their lives for our great country, a national moment of remembrance take place at 3 p.m. local time. Also on Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is flown at half-staff from dawn until noon local time, volunteers place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries, and the National Memorial Day Concert takes place on the west lawn of the United States Capitol.
So, what will you do on Memorial Day to pay honor to those who have served our country or lost their lives so we may enjoy the freedoms we have today? Let’s all pay tribute in a way that will make their sacrifices worthwhile and meaningful to those around us, and to those who follow in their footsteps.
Susan Gwin is an executive director for Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc.’s capital markets group. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.