Memorial Day: 60 Seconds of National Unity or Just Great Low Prices?

05/31/2010 12:44 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

This is an edited reprint of a piece I published last year for Memorial Day. It's not just a history lesson but a call to action. There's something we can do to unite our nation at a time when we have HUGE issues on the table and an opportunity to create lasting change.

The history lesson first: Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in the late 1800s in many different communities but with the main intention of laying flowers on the graves of soldiers, in honor of their service. Later, General John A. Logan, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veteran's organization, declared a national day of observance for all of those killed in a war. It is a day to honor the war dead, as Veteran's Day is a day to honor all who serve in the armed forces, living and dead. May 30th was picked as the date because it was a day of peace, not a date famous for any battle fought on it.

It was not an official Federal Holiday until 1967 and in 1971 the May 30 observance was changed to the last Monday in May as part of the 1969 Uniform Holidays Act, giving us three-day weekends and, in present form, a day for sales, sales, sales.

I'm suggesting that we take this holiday to it's next level, just like it's grown from Decorations Day, and use it as a single moment of connection for the whole country. This is, after all, an apolitical issue, one that no one would argue, no one could object to.

We could build on what's already in place, namely that in 2000 President Bill Clinton already established a National Moment of Remembrance for 60 seconds at 3 p.m. every Memorial Day. We could, for no cost, arrange that in each of our communities across the country that the warning sirens would be sounded, church bells rung, etc.?

For 60 seconds at 3 p.m. EST (time zone at Arlington National Cemetery) there would be no arguing for or against anything, there would just be silence. Cars could pull off the road, picnics pause, shoppers stop shopping and parties turn down the music for long enough to pay respect to the sacrifice of those in uniform for the sake of our collective safety.

But there's a call to action here: rather than agreeing with me and saying 'Yeah, that would work', I'm asking all of you to get busy this Memorial Day for the sake of next Memorial Day. Get busy lobbying friends and local politicians to enact this "Sound the Sirens" initiative in your own community for next year. It doesn't matter if we don't get the whole country in on it immediately, it's only YOUR community you need to affect. It could be the biggest contribution you make to your community ever.

And while I'm at it, I want to extend my personal thanks and gratitude to the veterans, police, fire and security personnel who've given their lives to keep our country safe.