Memorial Day – then and now

As AHS students prepare for the Memorial Day parties and barbeques, it is important to understand what the holiday commemorates. Many people simply look forward to having time away from work and school while firing up their grills and spending time with family and friends.

When asked what Memorial Day means to him, sophomore Amiel Terry said, “I don’t really know what it’s for, but I’m going to enjoy the three-day weekend.”

Well, Memorial Day was first established to show gratitude for the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. After seeing how the South commemorated their Confederate soldiers, national commander of the Grand Army of Republic John Logan declared May 5th as Decoration Day, the original name for the holiday.

The holiday was originally called Decoration Day because many families and loved ones of the dead would decorate graves of their fallen ones in remembrance.

Southerners were very reluctant to recognize this holiday because they held a different day to remember their Confederate soldiers. It wasn’t until World War I that the holiday shifted from honoring just those that died in for the Union, to honoring all of the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for this country.

Further, it wasn’t until the Holiday Act of 1971 that Memorial Day officially formed a three-day weekend. Yet this is what many people associate Memorial Day with.

To others, like junior Christopher Munson, whose grandfather was in World War II however, Memorial Day means something much more.

“[It’s there] to have a memorial for the lost soldiers in battle,” said Munson.

Disappointed by the lack of gratitude for soldiers today, Munson adds that there should be a greater recognition from people.

“We should appreciate the veterans every day, not just on Memorial Day. Hopefully by the time I get to the Marines, people show more appreciation,” said Munson.

To show thankfulness, one should fly flags at high staff from sunrise until noon, and wear red poppies to symbolize the blood that is shed by soldiers.

As the United States fights wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s important to understand that Memorial Day is not here to capitalize off of, or to spend the day playing video games and surfing the net, but to show appreciation to those who have sacrificed their lives to perpetuate the freedom of this nation.

Therefore, this Memorial Day, it would be nice for everyone to take some time to personally thank the men and women in uniform that have given their lives for this country, whether or not it affects them.