Rosie Stoff
May 26, 2014 5:58 am

Every year, on the last Monday in May, we are all thrilled to have the day off from work or school. Some of us may enjoy Memorial Day weekend out of town, while others celebrate with a staycation. Yes, we are all thankful for the holiday, but most of us don’t take the time to remember why we are observing this holiday and celebrating as proud Americans. Not to be confused with Veterans Day in November, Memorial Day remembers all American war casualties, whereas Veterans Day honors all that have served, whether alive or deceased.

FACTS ABOUT MEMORIAL DAY

• Several towns claim to be the originators of Memorial Day but in 1966, Congress declared Waterloo, New York, to be the birthplace of the holiday.
• Memorial Day originally honored military personnel who died in the Civil War (1861-1865). The holiday now honors those who died in any war while serving with the United States.
• Also called Decoration Day.
• Nine states set a day (officially) to honor those who lost their lives fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War; Texas, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia.

HISTORICAL TIMELINE

May 5, 1866 – Residents of Waterloo, New York, observe a Memorial Day in honor of all who died during the Civil War. Businesses are closed and soldiers’ graves are decorated.
1971 – Congress declares Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.
December 28, 2000 – Bill Clinton signs the “National Moment of Remembrance Act,” which designates 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day each year as the National Moment of Remembrance.

BY THE NUMBERS

Civil War (1861-1865)- 750,000 soldiers lost
World War I (1917-1918)- 116,708
World War II (1941-1945)- 408,900
Korean War (1950-1953)- 128,650
Vietnam War (1959-1975)- 211,454
Gulf War (1990-1991)- 1,143
War on Terror (2001-present)- 57,614

That leaves the TOTAL number of casualties in the last 7 major wars in which the United States has fought at 1,674,469. Each person with a family and friends, who left either by choice or draft, to defend their country as members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard.

HOW TO CELEBRATE

Most importantly, take a moment to remember – Let’s do something new and out of the ordinary. Let’s actually take a moment to OBSERVE the holiday. Let’s take that 3pm local time of silence and remembrance.

Volunteer – They helped us by risking their lives, and some losing everything. Pay it forward. Take the day and volunteer at a veteran’s center! I am sure any one in your area would be grateful for the help and support; most of our centers are struggling.

BBQ time – Find a local park or beach with BBQ facilities! Make new friends and share your feast.

Take a hike – What can represent being more appreciative of our country than taking a hike? Wherever you are, you are in one of the many landscapes of our country, coast, tropical, desert, metropolitan, farmland, forest. Take in the beauty!

Check online or in the paper for more local events and enjoy the patriotism!

Happy Memorial Day!

images courtesy of via, via

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