By Zach Hester, Reporter
DEKALB COUNTY, Ala. — Why do we celebrate Memorial Day? The federal holiday in May has become a staple for being the best day to get out on the lake with your family and friends and cherish a day off from your regular work life, but the true meaning behind this day is something a lot of people gloss over.
Originally known as Decoration Day, the history of Memorial Day can be traced back all the way to the Civil War when a Union general called for a national day of remembrance in May. The day was not officially recognized as Decoration Day until 1966 when the town of Waterloo, New York, held its first community event honoring fallen soldiers of wars past.
The holiday originally served as a time to just honor those who died during the Civil War, but as the United States found itself in further conflicts abroad during World Wars I and II, the holiday just stood to recognize those who fell in battle during all American-involved wars.
For years, Memorial Day was recognized on May 30, but it has come to just be celebrated on the last Monday in May. This was declared by the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, which also made the day a federal holiday. It also signals the official beginning of summer in America.
On April 24, 1961, then President John F. Kennedy made his famous Prayer for Peace speech on Memorial Day, stating:
“Whereas Memorial Day each year provides a fitting occasion upon which our people may not only commemorate the Nation’s heroic dead but also unite in prayer for the preservation of liberty and peace free from the threat of war.”
As we get up from sleeping in next Monday morning, let’s remember that Memorial Day should be and always will be more than just another day off from work. It’s a solemn moment to remember and thank those who came before us and gave their lives in the service of liberty so that we can all one day still pursue this thing we call The American Dream.