Memorial Day weekend is quickly approaching. That means the door to summer is open and waiting, even thought it might not feel like it outside. Folks will plan family gatherings this weekend with barbecues running full blast, the fridge stocked and enough wood on standby to have a campfire for three days.
But while you're enjoying your three-day weekend, please take a minute or two to remember the reason we get this Monday off. Our freedom to celebrate certainly was not free.
Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated after the Civil War as a way to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. The Civil War claimed so many lives that the country's first national cemeteries were established to accommodate the fallen. By the late 1860s, Americans began a springtime tradition of decorating those soldiers' graves and paying tribute to their service. In 1968, May 30 was designated as Decoration Day. On that first Decoration Day, 5,000 people decorated the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery, and the tradition began. Originally meant to honor those who died during the Civil War, the holiday evolved as the nation fought more wars and lost more soldiers.
Decoration Day continued annually on May 30 until Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which named Memorial Day, placed it on the last Monday in May and created a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change officially went into effect in 1971.
If you've never visited a national cemetery over the Memorial Day weekend, take some time and make a quick trip to Fort McPherson. It's our own little version of Arlington, right down the road. The flags, the flowers and the feeling cannot be compared. Even if you don't have a loved one buried there, it's worth the time to pause and give thanks to those who so bravely served so we may be free today.
There's also an opportunity to pay your respects to our fallen soldiers at the Gothenburg Cemetery at 10 am on Monday. The American Legion Post 64 and local Veterans of Foreign Wars will host a Memorial Day ceremony, complete with Color Guard and "TAPS."
Our country's fallen soldier deserve our respect. Make sure your weekend includes that.
is the Executive Director of the Community Development Office, which encompasses the Gothenburg Chamber of Commerce and the Gothenburg Improvement Company.