During the most recent legislative session, the Kentucky General Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 50, which I sponsored, naming a section of KY 2030 in Floyd County Corporal Elba Case WWII Purple Heart Memorial Highway. The designation took place earlier this month on the heels of Memorial Day and is fitting, as we should always honor and remember the sacrifices of military heroes such as Corporal Case. e
Th Memorial Day that we will observe nationally on Monday, May 28, had its beginning during the American Civil War. A brutal, long, bloody war that took the lives of over 600,000 soldiers, both North and South. Many soldiers were buried in unmarked graves because of their distance from home and the technology of the time, but they are not forgotten.
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War — a group that maintains the website usmemorialday.org — reports that Memorial Day was first proclaimed officially on May 5, 1868, by U.S. Army General John A. Logan to mark the placement of flowers on Union and Confederate graves at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868. It would not be until 1873 that New York would become the first state to officially recognize Memorial Day as a holiday.
With the passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971, almost every state in the U.S. now recognizes Memorial Day on the last Monday in May.
Today, Memorial Day ceremonies like the ones planned for our communities help to keep the meaning of the first Memorial Day alive. Your presence at those ceremonies is a show of respect for military men and women who have passed on or are in harm’s way, whether in the Middle East or on other assignments. It is proof that you understand military sacrifice and honor the values that millions of Americans have died defending.
There are many among us who do not understand that sacrifice or, if they do, do not take time to honor our veterans on Memorial Day. This is part of a real disconnect between many Americans and the story of the American military veteran.
The truth of the matter is that many Americans have a disconnect with the military today. There are many reasons for that. One reason is that we have fewer and fewer veterans to share their stories: Many of our older veterans — especially those from World War II and Korea — are dying at the rate of hundreds to thousands per day because of their age.
So here we are, in a new century, where Memorial Day has seemingly become more about cookouts, the opening of the local pool, and the unofficial beginning of summer than about honoring those who gave all.
Young Americans may consider entering military service yourselves. Or, should you decide upon a different career, you should nevertheless always uphold the values of this nation, support the military, support its veterans, and never forget the sacrifices they have made for you and me.