In less than a week, Memorial Day will be upon us.
Although the original intent of the last Monday of May was to honor the soldiers of both the Union and Confederacy who died in the Civil War, it has evolved into a day where we honor the passing of both loved one and those who served their country in the military.
The first observance occurred on May 30, 1868, but since 1971, Congress designated the last Monday in May as Memorial Day. The United States was trying to heal itself from four bitter years of fighting during the Civil War. Almost a half-million soldiers perished. Three years after the end of the Civil War, the Grand Army of the Republic established what was called Decoration Day in order to give family and friends a time to mourn the deceased and to decorate their graves with flowers.
The first Memorial Day crowd at Arlington National Cemetery drew approximately 5,000 people, the same number that will attend the ceremony this year.
After World War I, Memorial Day was expanded to recognize those men and women who died in all American wars. Americans also use the day to remember their deceased friends and relatives.
Unfortunately, too many Americans forget the true meaning of Memorial Day and use the extended weekend to jump-start the summer.
Four local events on Memorial Day celebrate the lives of those who served in the military. Volunteers normally go the cemeteries on Sunday to place flags next to the graves of veterans with ceremonies scheduled for the following morning.
Fallon has three events, beginning with a solemn remembrance at the Fallon Cemetery at 11 a.m. Veterans, families and friends then gather afterward at the Fallon Paiute Shoshone cemetery and then conclude the day’s activities at The Gardens.
The Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery at Fernley also conducts a remembrance ceremony beginning at 11 a.m.
In traditional fashion on Memorial Day, the flag is raised to the top of the staff with vigor but then lowered solemnly to half-staff to remind Americans of more than 1 million men and women who gave their lives for our country. At noon, the flag is raised to the top of the staff. Speeches, Taps and a 21-gun salute characterize both the Fallon and Fernley ceremonies.
In a military community, we look at Memorial Day as a way to become better acquainted with those who served, whether their service occurred during World War I or II or the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan or in peacetime. In recent times, however, we are reminded that at any given time, fewer than 1 percent of Americans serve in the armed forces, and 24.3 million Americans who are still alive also put on the uniform. About 25 percent of those figures are combat veterans.
During World War I, we lost almost 176,000 servicemen and the number increased to 407,000 during World War II. More than 50,000 Americans lost their lives in Korea and Vietnam, more than 4,000 servicemen and women died in Iraq and another 2,200 in Afghanistan.
So, this Memorial Day weekend, remember those who have given their lives for this country so that you can enjoy your freedoms. Thank those who currently serve, whether they’re stationed at Naval Air Station Fallon or attend drills in the Nevada National Guard or Reserves. They, too, have put their lives on the line, ready to deploy overseas and willing to put their lives in harm’s way.
Editorials written by the LVN Editorial Board appear on Wednesdays.