Many may perceive the holiday as an opportunity to catch up on sleep, hang out with friends, take a family road trip, or simply relax and unwind. It is also sometimes alleged to be the unofficial beginning of summer. But what really is Memorial Day and what impact does it have on everyday Madison students?
Initially called “Decoration Day,” Memorial Day is a holiday to honor America’s soldiers who have died serving the United States. It was only declared an official federal holiday in 1971 after the 1968 Uniform Monday Holiday Act was enforced, but the roots of the holiday trace back to 1868, when “General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance…” (History.com) Decoration Day was formerly observed on the 30th of May, but was later amended by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.
Although Memorial Day traces its roots back to the Civil War, the numerous wars that arose after have reshaped the purpose of the holiday. After World War I, Memorial Day became a holiday to honor the soldiers who fought and died for America in all American wars.
Each year, cities and towns across America host Memorial Day parades, with one of the largest held in New York City. In Arlington National Cemetery, American flags are placed near all of the graves of fallen soldiers, and American flags are flown at half-staff across the country. (Yahoo News)
On Memorial Day, Madison alumni who enlisted and bravely gave their lives for this nation are not excluded. On the first floor, Madison has a dedicated memorial to those who lost their lives during World War II. Many more of Madison’s alumni fought in other wars and military conflicts and lost their lives in combat.
There were many trials and tribulations throughout American history. During the Civil War, the United States fought to keep its unified identity in trying to prevent the South from breaking away over the inhumane practice of slavery, costing the lives of nearly half a million souls. During World War I, the United States fought to defend its allies, assert itself as a global superpower on the world stage, and defend itself from national security threats. During World War II, the United States fought to defeat fascism and retaliate against the unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor. And of course, during the American Revolution, an inexperienced Continental Army fought for the independence of America, overcoming the odds as it fought against the most powerful nation at the time.
Despite how some may feel about American involvement in several armed conflicts, civilian men and women were at the forefront of every war. The actions of the governors do not define the actions of the governed. However, it is still without a doubt that those same civilians gave their lives for this country. So, on Memorial Day, we honor over 1.1 million people who fought valiantly for the preservation of the United States of America and its core tenets that make America unique.