It used to be just like any other summer holiday. Like most Americans, we’d usually grill, maybe swim or take a bike ride, and enjoy our day off from work or school.
Originally called Decoration Day, a day to commemorate those lost in the Civil War, this May holiday was later called Memorial Day in 1967, to honor those lost in all of our wars.
It’s not merely a day to celebrate the first summer day to fire up the grill, or mark the opening of pool season. It’s a day of honor, and remembrance, and sacrifice. And it wasn’t til ten years ago that I understood this.
Only eleven days before the Memorial Day of 2005, my family learned that my cousin was shot and killed by a sniper in Iraq. He was standing atop his tank, tossing candy to some Iraqi children when the bullet hit him.
I was fifteen and had never experienced a family loss, nor did I ever expect my extended family to be the ones to feel the effects of war firsthand. I caught a glimpse of what grieving families for centuries have endured when devastated by the news that their soldier would never come home.
I’m grateful for all our veterans, and the sacrifices they made and the pain they endured; but Memorial Day is for remembering those like my cousin–and over a million others–who gave their all for our country.
Enjoy this day with your family and friends. Relish your time with them, and celebrate the freedom we enjoy from living in America. But let us not forget the ones who sacrificed their all that we might live free.