Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God
– Inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia
Happy Memorial Day everyone. There are many things that are on my mind today that I could talk about – such as the 38th anniversary of the release of Star Wars, or the 32nd anniversary of the release of Return of the Jedi – but what I really want to talk about is the history of this day that we enjoy by grilling, watching baseball, and spending time with family and friends. Oh, and drinking, drinking too. Yet while we make the most of the unofficial start of summer by dining outdoors with loved ones in lieu of working, this day should call our attention to those who are not around us who should be.
Originally, what we now call Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day, a day formed to commemorate the soldiers who died during the American Civil War by placing flowers on their graves. The Confederate states had their own day of remembrance for the fallen soldiers dressed in gray, and these two days eventually morphed into one day of appreciation for those warriors who made the ultimate sacrifice. 1882 seems to be the agreed upon year when the title was changed to Memorial Day and was meant to encompass the entire nation’s worth of fallen soldiers, however, the day was not widely recognized until after World War II.
Where Veterans Day is a day that is set aside to give thanks to all veterans for their service, Memorial Day is intended to pay homage to those who died in service of their country. I personally do not know anyone who has died in military service for the United States, but I do know of a few police officers and firefighters who have, and I believe they also deserve like appreciation for their sacrifices. I know that my dad, whose service in Vietnam I previously discussed in my Veteran’s Day post, knew many men who died in combat. Regardless of whether or not you know someone who has given his or her all for America or any other country, we should remember all who have for their sake, and the sake of the families and friends they left behind. It’s got to be harder for those folks to enjoy the nice weather while they grill up some burgers.
I am reminded of the most impactful part of my visit to Washington D.C. in 2010. It was my first and thus far only time in my nation’s capital, but the highlight was my visit to Arlington National Cemetery in nearby Arlington, Virginia. Specifically, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, otherwise known as the Tomb of the Unknowns, though it doesn’t actually have an official title. First opened on Veterans Day of 1921, the Tomb of the Unknowns is dedicated to soldiers whose remains cannot be positively identified. Most impressively, the tomb is guarded every second of every day by specially trained guards from the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the US Army. The guards change every half hour during public hours in summertime, and every hour in the fall and winter. They switch every 2 hours when the cemetery closes. The training and selection process is very intense, so much so in fact that the Tomb Guard is the second least granted title in the US Military behind only the Astronaut Badge, which is obviously very difficult to achieve as it requires a spaceflight.
In keeping with the theme of the Tomb of the Unknowns, I left the title blank for this post, but the title picture is one my dad took of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Savannah, Georgia in 2004 or 2005.
Thank you for reading. If you have any comments or questions then please direct them to the box below or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope everyone enjoyed their Memorial Day and took a moment to acknowledge their gratitude to those who died for their country’s ideals, especially those whose sacrifice was never officially known.