Three of the most significant dates of summer are the final Monday of May (the 25th this year), June 14 and July 4. One might call this annual stretch of summertime a holiday season for patriots, as those dates represent the holidays of Memorial Day, Flag Day and Independence Day, respectively.
First we honor Memorial Day, just celebrated on May 25. Memorial Day is when we remember and honor the GI’s who died while serving in the country’s armed forces in service to their country. The holiday originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, were merged into a unified holiday, and Memorial Day was born to honor all Americans who died in military service. With that in mind, many people visit cemeteries on Memorial Day, particularly to honor those who died in military service. Volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries. Memorial Day is also a major day for family gatherings, picnics, cookouts and community events.
Flag Day, celebrated June 14, commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States, also known as the Stars and Stripes, which happened on that day in 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation that officially established June 14 as Flag Day. National Flag Day was established by an Act of Congress in August 1949. After all, the flag is our national icon and something we honor by standing, placing a hand over our heart and pledging allegiance to. Though not an official federal holiday, it is a state holiday in several territories. In 1937, Pennsylvania was the first territory to declare Flag Day as a state holiday. Fairfield, Washington is believed to be home to the longest-running Flag Day parade in the country, dating back to 1909 or 1910.
Independence Day, more popularly known as the Fourth of July, commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the date the United States of America declared its independence from Great Britain. It is a day of fireworks, parades, barbecues, carnivals, fairs, picnics, concerts, baseball games, family reunions and political speeches, in addition to various other public and private events celebrating the history, government and traditions of the United States. Independence gave us freedom, and freedom is the state of living we cherish most in our country, and it is the thing for which the United States of America is most known. Freedom is what we hope for people’s around the world — many of whom have little or no freedom of movement, speech and other forms of expression.
Americans are a patriotic people, and our holidays express our continuing recognition that without the bravery and commitment of our fighting forces, and our citizens’ willingness to commit an enormous financial treasure to our military efforts, we would be a very different country — and world.
Written by Mike Consol