Memorial Day reminds us that freedom is not free

By Rockford Register Star

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, but it’s so much more than an excuse for a three-day weekend just as the weather is warming up.

Some people get Memorial Day mixed up with Veterans Day, observed every year on Nov. 11. Memorial Day honors those who died while serving in the military. Veterans Day honors all who served in the military.

Here are some thoughts on Memorial Day, a uniquely American holiday.


1. Memorial Day started as Decoration Day on May 5, 1868, three years after the Civil War. The head of an organization of Union veterans established the day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.

2. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York, in 1873. By 1890, the Northern states recognized the holiday. The South refused to acknowledge the day and honored its dead on separate days until the end of World War I, when the holiday changed from honoring only those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died in all wars.

3. By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies throughout the nation were on May 30. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.

4. It wasn’t until 1971 that Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by Congress and placed on the last Monday in May.

5. At 3 p.m. today we’re supposed to pause for one minute in an act of national unity. The National Moment of Remembrance was established by Congress in 2000.

6. You can honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice by flying the U.S. flag at half-staff until noon.



  • “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” — Gen. George S. Patton
  • “In the truest sense, freedom cannot be bestowed; it must be achieved.” — President Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission.” — President John F. Kennedy
  • “For love of country, they accepted death.” — President James A. Garfield
  • “I don’t have to tell you how fragile this precious gift of freedom is. Every time we hear, watch, or read the news, we are reminded that liberty is a rare commodity in this world.” — President Ronald Reagan
  • “Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” — President Harry S. Truman

(c)2016 Rockford Register Star, Ill.

Visit Rockford Register Star, Ill. at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.