Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day, honors the U.S. men and women who have died in military service for their country.

Instead of us concentrating on having the day off from work or school for the sake of having the day off, we should make sure to honor the day for what it was meant to be about.

In today’s atmosphere of consumerism, fast food and multiple choices that weren’t around a few short years ago, it is relatively easy to forget the meaning of Memorial Day.

The holiday was introduced to honor Union soldiers who paid the supreme sacrifice during the Civil War. Then, after World War I, it was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action.

As the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day is also a time for picnics, barbecues, family gatherings and sporting events — one of the most popular being the Indianapolis 500, which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911.

In addition, the national “Click It or Ticket” campaign ramps up beginning Memorial Day weekend, noting the beginning of the most dangerous season for auto accidents and other safety-related incidents.

But that is not what the holiday is about. It is about honoring the men and women who have paid the ultimate price to ensure our freedoms. It is about paying tribute to those who continue to step up and put their lives in the line to defend our country — to defend us.

We Americans owe a deep debt of gratitude to the men and women who have defended our nation down through a dozen generations.

On Memorial Day, we remember those brave souls — mothers, fathers, daughters, sons — who came from all across our country and from all walks of life to selflessly offer their service.

Their silenced and honored ranks are now joined by heroes from a new generation who answered the nation’s call in Iraq, Afghanistan and hotbeds of the world.

And in the name of freedom, these servicemen and women make the ultimate sacrifice to ensure others the fundamental rights of liberty.

As a matter of fact, this holiday may be less about memorializing the certain past, its heroes and victims, as honorable and memorable as they were, and more about conjecture on the faceless enemy and the uncertain, unidentified battlefields ahead.

Since the Iraq war began in 2003, more than 4,000 Americans have died. It’s about the service members.

It is for them that we should observe Memorial Day.

And it is for them that, through the comforts of our freedom, we should remember. And not just on Memorial Day. But it’s a start.

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