Memorial Day weekend began as a day set aside to honor this nation’s military members who had fallen in the line of their service. Originally celebrated to honor the dead from the Civil War, the day was at first known as Decoration Day. Many southern states did not recognized Memorial Day until after World War I, when it became a day to honor all fallen soldiers, not just those of Civil War. There are some parts of the nation that still think of it as a “Yankee” holiday.
Memorial Day has moved around the calendar over the years. The last Monday in May date was formalized as Memorial Day in 1971, and the three-day weekend has grown into more than a time of remembrance for much of the nation. That hasn’t gone without controversy because many veterans groups and individuals feel the significance of the day has been diminished. The holiday is now the traditional start of summer vacations. It’s a weekend filled with sports, such as auto racing, baseball, basketball, golf and more fill the schedule. Locally, one of the area’s major golf tournaments used to be played on Memorial Day weekend, but has now moved to the second weekend in June. In Fort Worth this year, the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial will be played over this weekend.
Sports have always been a bond that my father and I shared, and this weekend has always been one of our favorites. As an Indianapolis native, he’s been a lifelong fan of the Indy 500. Living in Arlington, attending Colonial’s annual PGA tour stop as a spectator and volunteer was almost a given. As we became NASCAR fans, the Sunday before Memorial Day became something of an all-day sports smorgasbord, with golf sandwiched between two auto races — a full day to say the least.
Short of some unpredictable weather delay, all three events wrapped up on Sunday, allowing fans to continue to reserve Monday for its Memorial Day message. For years the Brownwood Bulletin has partnered with the local VFW chapter to help promote its annual service at Eastlawn Memorial Park. That afternoon, at the 36th Division Memorial Park, near Brownwood Regional Medical Center, a second ceremony — part groundbreaking, part memorial — will take place at 2:45 p.m.
Part of the afternoon ceremony will coincide with the “National Moment of Remembrance” which takes place at 3 p.m. locally. This moment came about, in part, due to concerns about the focus of Memorial Day shifting away from its original purpose and onto recreational events. Created by a resolution passed in late 2000, it asks all Americans, at 3 p.m. local time, “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.’”
There are some groups that would like to see the holiday set on a specific date, rather than as the end of a long weekend. There have even been at least two bills that would have done that introduced in Congress, although neither has developed into a change. Although there is a very serious message that needs to be delivered and remembered each Memorial Day, it can also be a celebration of the freedoms that those who laid down their lives helped preserve. Rather than complain about the holiday losing its focus, our society should embrace the opportunity to spend three days with our families and friends and both celebrate and remember.
This Monday our nation will once again honor the men and women who have fallen while serving in its Armed Forces. There will be memorial services, flags flown at half mast, picnics and family gatherings. At 3 p.m. we will all have the opportunity to stop what we’re doing, and say a silent prayer of thanks for all the sacrifices our service men and women have made over the years.
Bill Crist is associate publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.