The price of going somewhere this Memorial Day weekend is up. Gasoline is closing in on $4 a gallon and a major airline wants to charge you $15 to check a bag. But then the cost of staying home for Memorial Day is up too. The ingredients of a backyard barbecue are up 6 percent over last year.
However, there is one constant in Memorial Day — its purpose. That remains unchanged and it’s free — remembering and honoring those who have died in our country’s service. And there are many who feel the holiday has strayed from that purpose and instead of an official day of remembrance and mourning its the semi-official kickoff to vacation season.
Memorial Day, it is believed, lost something vital in 1971 when Congress moved it to the last Monday in May from May 30, the day it was first observed in 1868 when Ulysses Grant attended a ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony, a presidential custom observed ever since.
The day was traditionally a subdued observance devoted to the cleaning and decorating of the graves of the Civil War dead, hence it’s original name, Decoration Day.
People who believe it should return to those origins have organized a petition drive to restore Memorial Day to May 30. One who does is Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, a World War II veteran, who since has faithfully introduced a bill to that effect in every new Congress since 1989. However, the three-day weekend is now permanently engraved in the American calendar and that won’t change.
But it is not asking a lot — indeed, it is asking what is rightfully due — to pause during those three days, and especially on Monday, to honor and reflect on the over 43 million who have served in our military in a long distinguished line going back to the American Revolution and to the more than 1 million who have died in that service.
Have a great Memorial Day and do thank those who brought it to you.