Memorial Day means different things to different people. It’s the unofficial start of the summer, the annual weekend of cannon fire at Roaring Camp, and the breather before the finals grind. To many, Memorial Day evening brings to mind pulling out the old military portraits, grilling burgers with the family, and a moment of silence in remembrance of the soldiers who’ve sacrificed for the greater good.
The earliest form of Memorial Day was the occasion of decoration of graves of the fallen, in the Confederate State of Georgia. Celebrating a dead man was originally seen as a morbid “party” by the North, but it was still seen as a sign of respect. To boost morale and encourage volunteers, the celebration of fallen soldiers spread to the North. By the time the Civil War ended in 1865, the holiday had already been instituted by Union officials, but it wasn’t respected, until the soldiers returned home from the great war of their generation. WWII changed the American perspective on war; just serving was enough for respect. Previously, a soldier fought for honors and integrity, so an underperforming infantryman wasn’t worth a celebration, but after WWII, every man was a hero, every soldier important, every life risked for their country was worth celebrating. In 1968, the US government passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which made Memorial Day the official celebration of military veterans, new and old, volunteers and draftees. It created a day of reflection, free of long standing contempt. It set aside the differences, the factions, and focussed on remembering the people who fought and died for what they believed in.
Nowadays, Memorial Day is about celebrating the people, friends, family, other SLV students, and even strangers who will put themselves in harm’s way to protect the country, if they ever need to. Memorial Day isn’t celebrated because people needed to serve, but because people chose to serve. They risked their safety, left their entire life behind, and forewent all freedom, because they want to protect everyone else.
Memorial Day isn’t celebrating the violence, the war, or even the soldier. Memorial Day is for whomever has, is, or will sacrifice for the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. They should not only be respected for how they struggled, but also because they struggled.
By Jonathon Rose