Monday we will honor our nation's ultimate defenders of freedom in Memorial Day services all over the United States.
This is one of two holidays each year set aside to remember our nation's veterans, and both are appropriate days of tribute to the more than 1.5 million servicemen who gave their lives for their country and to those veterans still living who served America.
The origin of Memorial Day began in 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln signed legislation establishing national veterans' cemeteries.
Memorial observances honoring America's military fatalities began in the mid-1860s. On May 5, 1868, retired Gen. John A. Logan, as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (the private organization representing Union veterans) issued a general order establishing a nationwide Decoration Day on May 30.
Monday, you will still find individuals and veterans' groups such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars properly commemorate Memorial Day. For too many others, the holiday only symbolizes the beginning of the summer season.
It always should be emphasized, however, that the purpose of this holiday is to allow Americans to reflect upon and honor their war dead; those brave men and women who gave their lives in combat against tyrannical dictatorships in order for the rest of us to enjoy this precious freedom.
It is a day in which we should focus our collective attention on the special ways these heroes made liberty's cause their own. No one is more responsible for securing the blessings of freedom and liberty that we enjoy in this country.
These veterans have indeed earned their rightful positions on this nation's roll of honor.
Take a 'moment' to remember
Try to fathom the number of men and women who have died fighting our nation's enemies over the centuries. It's overwhelming. It's stunning. It's certainly worth a moment of our time.
Memorial Day is called a holiday, and it should be a holy day. Unfortunately, for so long we have gone camping or swimming or hiking or shopping that since 2000 the day has been reduced to an official "National Moment of Remembrance."
Nationally, at 3 p.m. Monday, we are expected to "pause." Take a "moment." Sacrifice a "minute" of your vacation to the thought of all those soldiers, sailors and Marines who died in the uniform of the United States.
Well, it takes longer than a pause to contemplate all of the dead listed on The Wall of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. It takes longer than a moment to absorb all of the Americans killed in World War II stretching across the walls of the Veterans Memorial Museum in Branson, Mo. It takes a lot longer than a minute to comprehend the crosses "row on row" at Arlington National Cemetery.
But it's why Memorial Day was set aside.
It is to remember our war dead.
It is not a general day of remembrance for everyone you know who has passed on. It is not a general day of recognition for military veterans. It is not about the greatest sales event of the season.
It is a day - a whole day - to recognize how huge a sacrifice so many thousands have made. It is a time to feel the loss, the hole left behind, the impact left on each family with each death.
Maybe you never have been and never will be able to visit a national monument to war dead. It is easier and well worth your time to find a local ceremony paying tribute to those who died. Just a walk around a cemetery to find the veterans' flags can be meditative.
Men and women in American uniforms are dying almost every day in another war. They, too, deserve more than a moment of our time.