May 22, 2023
The three-day Memorial Day weekend is upon us. For many Americans, Memorial Day heralds the unofficial start of the summer season and lazy, hazy days of beaches, backyard barbecues and baseball. There’s nothing wrong with reveling in those Memorial Day traditions, but it’s also imperative that we not forget the reason why this national holiday was founded in the first place - to solemnly honor all those American military personnel who died while in service to our country.
The history of Memorial Day is fascinating. The federal holiday was originally known as “Decoration Day” and was created to honor only those whose lives were lost while fighting in the American Civil War. Once World War I ensued, however, and the United States found itself embroiled in a one major military conflict after another, the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars, including World War II, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 1968, Congress passed the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act,” which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Local 98 is also proud of our support of the Families Behind The Badge Children’s Foundation, a Philadelphia non-profit dedicated to supporting families of fallen and critically injured first responders and building healthy connections to the communities they serve. We recently made a significant contribution to the non-profit to provide for the education of the children of two PA State Troopers who were killed in a horrific drunk driver incident on I-95. We also annually support the “Hero Thrill Show”, which pays for the college tuition for the children of fallen Philadelphia police officers and firefighters.
So, as we all prepare to enjoy the long Memorial Day weekend, take a moment to remember what the holiday is truly about and say a quiet prayer for all those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedoms. President John F. Kennedy, one of America’s greatest orators, said it best: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Happy Memorial Day.