Americans who gather at cemeteries, memorials and monuments across the country to honor fallen military service members today, are doing just exactly what Memorial Day is all about, but general public's nonchalant observance of this holiday has brought about a lot of confusion. (Thanks to actor turned chef Brandon Lee for pointing this out the other day).
First of all, today is not a celebration of our Nation's heritage or it's founding (that's Independence Day on July 4th) and it's not the day we pay tribute to all the men and women who have served in the military (Veteran's Day on November 11th is the time for that).
After the US Civil War, Decoration Day was started to commemorate both the Union and Confederate soldiers who died during that war. Later it was extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.
Today has nothing at all to do with stores having special sales or parades up the middle of town or even backyard barbecues. It's about remembering our fallen. Sometime today President Barack Obama will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery and then, with First Lady Michelle Obama will host a breakfast at the White House with "Gold Star" families of service members who have been killed. Families will go to cemeteries and lay flags and flowers. Religious services will be held. That's what it's all about.
At National cemeteries, flags are raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position. It remains there all day. At other places where the American flag is flown, it is also lowered to half-staff, but only flies there until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.
Certainly other things can fill the rest of your day - that is true any day of the year. The main focus though should be of those heroes we have lost in service. To them, thank you! (By the way, for those of you who wondered what happened yesterday, I have decided to skip Sundays, at least for a while. You will still have something to read about making a difference in the world, the other six days, but we will begin each week by resting).