Today is Memorial Day in the United States, dedicated to honoring those who fell in defense of the country.
I found this article about the roots of this holiday to be interesting from a historical perspective. The holiday originated as Decoration Day, not from a grateful civilian populace, but from the soldiers themselves. The original Decoration Day was declared by General John Alexander Logan, the leader of a Union veterans organization, in 1868. The circular that Logan wrote asked his fellow veterans to use May 30th to decorate the graves of their fallen comrades.
It's a bit hard to imagine today, when the country is united in honoring the holiday, but not everyone appreciated the original Decoration Day. After the Civil War, the civilian populace was eager to put all reminders of the war behind them, particularly in the North. And in the South, honoring fallen Union soldiers was naturally a deeply divisive concept. Over time, as the experience of war faded, observance became more widespread. And as other wars came and went, the meaning expanded to include all fallen soldiers.
The Memorial Day we know today didn't come into being until 1967, when it was declared a federal holiday. I'm young enough that I don't remember a time when we didn't have a Memorial Day, and so is a large portion of the American populace. It's sometimes easy to get caught up in all the other things that surround any federal holiday - time off work, all kinds of sales advertisements, picnics and parades - and miss the original reason. I hope today that everyone takes some time to remember and honor the sacrifice of the military veterans who helped make all those things possible.