Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, was established as a day of remembrance – to give honor to the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The President of the United States traditionally visits Arlington National Cemetery, and participates in a symbolic wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The precise origins of Memorial Day are in dispute; it is generally agreed that the day originated in a day of mourning following the Civil War, when an unprecedented number of soldiers were killed in battle. It is hard to fathom the scale of loss during the Civil War – over 600,000 dead, when the nations’ population was 30 million – 2% of the population killed in battle…
From the Revolutionary War to today, 1.3 million American soldiers have died while serving their nation. It is safe to assume that just as many Americans today oppose their nation’s international policies, so too at all times. But our nation’s freedoms have been hard-earned, and all who enjoy them – all over the world – owe a deep debt to those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice.
On August 18, 1918, just a month after his youngest son was killed at the front, President Theodore Roosevelt proudly mentions that his other two sons have been wounded – and that “there has been nothing finer in our history than the way our young men have eagerly and gladly gone to France to fight for a high ideal.”
Their light shines ever bright – a beacon of democracy and freedom.
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