Memorial Day is a day to honor those who have died in the nation’s wars.
Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War when citizens placed flowers on the graves of those who had been killed in battle. After World War I it evolved from remembering just the fallen of the Civil War to remembering all soldiers who died during the country’s wars at home and abroad. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.
It even has its own flag etiquette. At sunrise, anyone flying a flag should raise the flag briskly to full-staff then slowly lower the flag to half-staff. This is to honor the men and women who have fallen in the line of duty. At noon, the flag should be briskly raised to full-staff. This is to salute all of those who have served.
Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.
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Today we should pause to honor their valiant efforts and the ultimate sacrifices paid. Words cannot really express the debt we owe to them.
Across history and around the globe our fighting men and women have given their lives to defend America’s freedom and protect the lives of those at home. More than 1.3 million have died in service to their country.
When it comes to war, we have been lucky as a nation. For the most part during our history, we fought them elsewhere. We mounted a War of Independence around 1776, fought the British again in the War of 1812 (which led to the torching of the White House), and survived the fratricide of the Civil War, a hellacious endeavor that involved 3.2 million soldiers on both sides (at least 620,000 died) in a nation that then only numbered 22 million people. What followed were the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and conflicts in the Middle East.
Yet during the 20th century, perhaps the most violent century in human existence, the U.S. faced no serious threat of invasion. So the pain of those wars fell on people in the countries where they took place and on the Americans who fought them, and on their families.
We observe Veterans Day in November to honor all those who served, preserving Memorial Day to remember those who died.
Here in Walworth County we will remember them and quietly thank them all — fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters — knowing full well that they paid the price for the freedom and security we know today. Several remembrances are planned for today to allow for local residents to join together in tribute.
It is a solemn day, a day for reflection and to give thanks for the efforts of our fallen military.
The Regional News editorial board consists of General Manager Robert Ireland, Editor Stephanie Jones and community members Patrick Quinn and Elizabeth Lupo DiVito. A version of this editorial also ran in the Journal Times in Racine and Kenosha News.