More places seem to be having parades and ceremonies. Perhaps it's because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made us more acutely aware of the debt we owe our military men and women. On Memorial Day we honor those who have died in that service. President Barack Obama will do so at Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Illinois; Vice President Joe Biden will do so at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
There also will be large Memorial Day services today at the Georgia National Cemetery in Canton and Monday at the Marietta National Cemetery in Marietta.
There are numerous explanations as to the origins of Memorial Day, but it seems to have sprung spontaneously in separate locations following the trauma of the Civil War. On May 5, 1868, Gen. John Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Potomac, a veterans' organization, formalized the custom of a day set aside to decorate the graves of the fallen. Indeed, for years it was called Decoration Day. The first observance was that May 30.
After World War II, the term Memorial Day came more and more into general use. Congress made it official in 1967. Congress then declared that, starting in 1971, the holiday would be observed on the last Monday in May, creating a three-day weekend. Many believe that change robbed Memorial Day of some of its solemnity. Since 1987, Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, a wounded World War II vet, has annually - and unsuccessfully - tried to return Memorial Day to May 30.
To return something of Memorial Day's purpose, President Bill Clinton in 2000 signed a proclamation calling for a National Moment of Remembrance, a moment of silence at 3 p.m. Monday. Maybe it's working. In any case, a small pause to say thank-you is little enough to ask.
Enjoy your Memorial Day, and remember whom it honors.