Memorial Day's special significance

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Another Memorial Day nears, and although it marks the unofficial start of the summer vacation season, the holiday means much more than that.

Memorial Day is the day Americans set aside to honor those who have died during military service to the United States, especially the nation's war dead.

The observance dates to the years immediately following the Civil War, when communities began annual commemorations of their dead. In the Northern states, these Decoration Days usually involved placing flowers and other decorations on the graves.

The alternative name of Memorial Day was first used in 1882. It did not become more common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by federal law until 1967. Another change became official in 1971, when the traditional date of May 30 gave way to observing the holiday on the last Monday in May.

Many picnics and other family gatherings are held on Memorial Day, but we urge our readers to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday. All Americans owe the freedoms they enjoy to brave men and women who, since the days of the American Revolution, have given their lives to defend this nation.

Many Americans still observe the tradition of visiting family graves, and particularly those of service men and women, on Memorial Day. We urge our readers to do so, and we also encourage them to attend services specifically organized to honor the nation's fallen heroes.

For many years, Cherokee and other communities in the county and across the nation host poignant cemetery ceremonies each Memorial Day to honor our fallen military heroes and their valiant commitment to keep our country free.

Wherever you choose to spend this special holiday, we hope you will at least take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of our nation's heroes and what they have done for all of us. They deserve our gratitude and our deepest respect.