EDITORIAL: The reason for Memorial Day

York Dispatch

Everyone looks forward to Memorial Day weekend.

It's the unofficial beginning of summer, three days to enjoy the sun, get out the grill, maybe go to the pool for the first time. The school year is almost over, college students are home, people are planning vacations, thinking about the beach, the mountains, the open road.

All of that is great. America has gone almost six months without a major holiday, so we all deserve a break.

But we also need to take the time to remember the reason for the Memorial Day holiday.

Memorial Day was first observed in 1868 to remember the sacrifices made by soldiers during the Civil War, according to PBS. Union Gen. James Garfield spoke at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 people helped decorate the graves of 20,000 Union soldiers buried there.

York County honors and remembers our fallen with a Memorial Day ceremony at the York County Vietnam Veteran Memorial, Monday, May 30, 2016.
John A. Pavoncello photo

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue," Garfield said.

Garfield went on to become the 20th president in 1881.

Northern state commemorated Decoration Day on May 30, while Southern states had separate days to honor Confederate soldiers through World War I, when Memorial Day evolved to honor all U.S. soldiers killed in all conflicts.

PHOTOS: York County honors the fallen with Memorial Day ceremonies

Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday in 1971.

Since the American Revolution, approximately 1.35 million members of the U.S. military have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Nearly half of those deaths were during the Civil War, 400,000 were during World War II, 116,000 in World War I, 58,000 in Vietnam and 36,000 in Korea.

The sacrifices are still being made. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, 4,411 U.S. military died, according to the Department of Defense. In Afghanistan, 2,251 U.S. military members have died since 2001.

Most recently, Senior Chief Petty Officer Kyle Milliken, a Navy Seal, died May 5 during an operation in Somalia, according to Military Times. Milliken, 38, was from Falmouth, Maine.

These brave men and women gave their lives to protect our lives and our freedom. Their memories live on every day that we as a country uphold the values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

So yes, enjoy the holiday weekend. Barbecue with your family and friends, celebrate responsibly, jump in the pool, laugh, dance and sing.

And at 3 p.m. Monday, stand still and quiet for the moment of remembrance to thank those who gave their lives for this country.