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Memorial Day: a Time for Remembering

Memorial Day Weekend marks that time of year when school is out, summer is here and we gather with the family for a barbecue or go on vacation. But we should not get so caught up in the excitement that we forget the real purpose of the holiday: to remember and honor those who have given their lives for our country.

We can trace the origins of Memorial Day all the way back to 1868, after the Civil War. At that time, the day was known as Decoration Day because to honor those killed in the Civil War, the fallen soldiers’ graves were decorated.

Following in the tradition of Decoration Day, many other observances developed around the country after World War I. As a result, Congress declared in 1971 that the last Monday in May would be known as Memorial Day–a national holiday to honor soldiers killed in all of the wars in which the United States had been involved.

In the thirty-four years since Memorial Day became an official national holiday, the United States military has been involved in many other wars and conflicts. Thousands more soldiers have given their lives to protect our freedom and to give freedom to others around the world.

But we often get too busy, even on Memorial Day, to take a moment to think about those who have died so that this country can be free and prosperous. Despite the continuing dangers in Iraq, we often pay little attention when we hear a new report of an American soldier who has been killed there.

That is why this Memorial Day our soldiers should be even more present in our thoughts and prayers. We should pray in particular for the over 1,600 families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq during these last two years. We should also remember those who continue to serve us there, risking their lives every day.

In addition, one week after Memorial Day on June 6th, we should take time out to remember the 75,000 American servicemen who participated in that amazing military operation on the beaches of Normandy known as D-Day. Thousands of young men gave their lives that day, and we should never forget that their bravery eventually led to the fall of Hitler and the Nazi regime. Like our troops who are fighting today inIraq, our veterans from D-Day exemplify courage that is beyond words.

In closing, I am reminded of that familiar phrase we often hear at Christmas: “Jesus is the reason for the season.” That same kind of reminder serves us well this Memorial Day, because as we are enjoying the weekend with friends and family, let’s all take some time to remember the real reason for the holiday.