Memorial Day 2015 is next Monday, and most of us have plans for the holiday weekend: enjoying the first taste of summer, entertaining with friends, or just relaxing. This will always be part of what the Memorial Day weekend is all about.
The other part, as we all know, is about honoring this country's fallen heroes. We live in the greatest nation in the world only because time and time again brave men and women have been willing to fight for the freedoms we all too often take for granted.
Right now the U.S. has 1,473,900 men and women on active duty. Nearly 10,000 are in Afghanistan and Iraq. Others are deployed as follows:
South Korea: 28,500
United Kingdom: 9,124
British Indian Ocean Terr: 546
Saudi Arabia: 322
United Arab Emirates: 321
South Africa: 221
Puerto Rico: 147
Memorial Day began as an occasion to honor those who fought and died in the Civil War. Places in both the North and South claim to have originated it, from Macon, Ga., and Richmond, Va., to Boalsburg, Pa., and Carbondale, Ill. But in 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the birthplace of Memorial Day. There, a ceremony on May 5, 1866, honored local Civil War veterans. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-staff. Supporters of Waterloo's claim say observances in other places were informal, not community-wide or one-time events.
After World War I the day was expanded to honor the service people of all American wars. In 1971 Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day.
Thus, the men and women we honor this Memorial Day are all those who have served this nation from its founding 239 years ago--since the Revolutionary War, we have lost 1,010,485 men and women in combat--as well as all those who defend us now against the threat of global terrorism.
Permit us to wish you a great weekend. But let us never forget the courageous men and women who have served and sacrificed so much in past wars so we could enjoy this holiday, just as we honor those who stand duty today to keep us safe.