As we enjoy the first taste of summer, entertaining friends and family or just relaxing this Memorial Day, we should take a moment to reflect on what the weekend is all about.
Here are five facts to consider:
1) Memorial Day began as an occasion to honor those who fought and died in the Civil War. Places in both the North and South claim to have originated it, from Macon, Ga., and Richmond, Va., to Boalsburg, Pa., and Carbondale, Ill. But in Waterloo, N.Y., on May 5, 1866, a ceremony honored local Civil War veterans. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say observances in other places were informal, not communitywide, or were one-time events.
2) After World War I, the day was expanded to honor the service people of all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day.
3) In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the birthplace of Memorial Day.
4) The men and women we honor this Memorial Day are all those who have served this nation from its founding 239 years ago, as well as all those who defend us now against the threat of global terrorism. Since the Revolutionary War, we have lost 1,010,485 men and women in combat.
5) Right now the U.S. has 1,473,900 men and women on active duty. Nearly 10,000 are in Afghanistan and Iraq. Others are in 28 additional countries, including the following:
South Korea: 28,500
United Kingdom: 9,124
Let us never forget the courageous men and women who have served and sacrificed so much in past wars so we could enjoy this holiday. We honor them and those who stand duty today to keep us safe.
Robert L. Dilenschneider is founder and principal of the Dilenschneider Group, a global communications firm with offices in New York, Washington and Chicago.
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