Memorial Day gives time to remember
On average, two U.S. military personnel die each day in Middle Eastern conflicts and have since Desert Storm started in August 1990, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
That’s two families who have to deal with the loss, multiples of children in many cases, plus parents, friends and the world, which won’t get to see the difference these young men and women would have made if they had lived.
While “two” makes the number personal, a report released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2007 said nearly 74,000 Americans were killed during Gulf War actions between 1990 and 2007.
But some would say two is better than the 297 Americans who died each day during World War II, according to VA statistics.
Memorial Day honors the more than 41.5 million men and women who have died in battle since the American Revolution. Each gave his or her life in service to their country.
“Decoration Day” was first observed in April 1866, according to the VA, by Confederate women decorating the graves of those from both the South and North who died in the Battle of Shiloh during the Civil War.
By the end of the 19th century, May 30 was the agreed-upon date to honor those killed fighting in the Civil War – 420 a day counting both the Union and the Confederacy – perhaps because on that date across the nation, flowers usually were blooming each year.
It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress.
In December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law the National Moment of Remembrance Act, which encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.
While Memorial Day is not said to be a day to remember family or friends who have died, many people choose to do so. After all, there is not another day set aside for the practice, and how much better to remember everyone on one day.
“I used to hate July 4,” said Mandy Cox of Springville. “That’s the day my grandma died. In 1997! But maybe five years ago someone said to just remember her on Memorial Day.
“Now I can remember her then and feel like it’s okay to have fun again on the 4th of July, and on Memorial Day too, for that matter,” Cox continued. “It’s like now I can celebrate all the good times we had instead of being reminded that she died.”
Some, however, want the day to stay specific to remembering those who were killed in battle, remembering the cost of the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.
“I lost buddies in Vietnam,” said one gray-bearded man leaning against a fence at a recent event in Spanish Fork. “I don’t want to forget them.”