By Col. Deborah B. GraysMay 21, 2009
Fort McPherson & Fort Gillem
When you think of Memorial Day, what comes to mind' For those who work, it may mean a three-day weekend; for kids, it may mean the local swimming pool opens; for others, it means barbecue in the backyard or family gatherings as the unofficial beginning of summer.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, as a day to remember those who died during the Civil War.
It was originally known as "Decoration Day" and was first observed May 30, 1868. Until 1971, Memorial Day was observed each year on May 30; it now falls on the last Monday of May and recognizes all Americans who have died in military service. Many fire and police departments also observe Memorial Day to recognize their own fallen members.
Since the events of Sept. 11, 2001, Memorial Day has taken on a new meaning for many Americans. Each of us probably knows at least one servicemember who has died serving our country, and others who remain in harm's way today.
The flags decorating the tombstones at Arlington Cemetery and others around the country on this Memorial Day honor Americans who have died all over the world in service to our great nation.
These gravesites are no longer those of only our fathers and grandfathers - they are our brothers and sisters, our husbands and wives, our children and our friends. It is these Americans to whom Memorial Day is dedicated and whom I ask you to remember on this Memorial Day.
Memorial Day also marks the start of the "101 Critical Days of Summer," during which off-duty injuries and fatalities tend to increase.
As a fellow Soldier, I ask each of you to honor your fallen brothers and sisters in arms by taking care of yourselves and your Families and exercising safety and care in all you do.
Those whose graves are adorned with flags this Memorial Day are gone forever; honor them this weekend through your actions and decisions so that you may continue to wear the uniform of the nation they died serving.
Americans observe Memorial Day in many different ways, including a national moment of remembrance at 3 p.m., flying the American flag at quarter-staff from dawn until noon local time, placing flags on each gravesite at national cemeteries, local parades and other community activities.
This Memorial Day, I encourage you to observe the holiday by doing three things: one, take a moment to remember the sacrifices of those who died wearing the uniform you wear or have worn; two, enjoy the friends and family who have supported you in your service to the nation; and three, come back safely.