As many of us excitedly look forward to gathering with friends and family and enjoying the long weekend, it's easy to lose sight of the significance of Memorial Day.
But for military families across the U.S., especially those of the estimated 5,885 American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last 10 years of war, it's a day to remember and honor those who have given their lives for our country.
For anyone in need of a refresher, Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Civil War soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery to honor their sacrifices. In 1971, federal law changed the observance of the holiday to the last Monday in May and extended it to honor all who had died in American wars.
Today, many cities celebrate Memorial Day with parades, speeches and the decoration of graves. At Arlington National Cemetery, an American flag is placed on each grave, and it's tradition for the president or vice president to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
As you make preparations for your weekend barbecues or camping trips, consider how you can do something for the soldiers who have done so much for our country -- whether by honoring a fallen soldier, supporting a military family or brightening the day of one currently serving.