Memorial Day is typically, and unofficially, considered the first day of summer. Holding parties and barbecues surrounded by family and friends, most Americans celebrate the holiday weekend with fun and games.

However, there’s more to this day than good times. Some families want to have those good times so badly but will not be able to. Memorial Day is an important reminder why we can afford the freedoms we have today. It’s also a reminder to remember those who cannot be here to cherish those freedoms as well.

For those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by keeping our country free, this day is for their remembrance.

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Memorial Day, originally named Decoration Day, saw its start shortly after the Civil War ended. The Civil War claimed more lives than any other conflict in U.S. history. In fact, the loss of life was so great that it required the American government to establish its first national cemeteries.

Mostly recognized to honor the fallen during the darkest days of American history, the conflict of World War I forced Americans to think in a much broader sense and remember the fallen in all wars. Memorial Day was recognized as a federal holiday by the U.S. government in 1971 by passing the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which states that Memorial Day will always be recognized during the last Monday in May.

While many cities independently initiated memorials to remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, the federal government in 1966 named Waterloo, New York the official birthplace of Memorial Day. It was chosen because it was the first city in the country to celebrate the day dating back to 1866. Businesses would close around Waterloo and residents would decorate soldiers’ graves with flowers and American flags.

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Discover Our America remembers the brave men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice in battle for our country. And, as always, we thank current and former Armed Forces members that have served our country.

Without you all selflessly putting yourselves into harms way, we would not be able to live in a country that offers so much to so many.

And for those that can’t be here today, we will be remembering and honoring you this Memorial Day.

Written by The Discover Our America Team