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Memorial Day: Objective remains constant amid change

News Tribune editorial

Today’s celebration of Memorial Day will differ from the initial observance nearly 150 years ago, but the objective of the holiday remains unchanged.

Originally known as Decoration Day, the observance began as a day to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers.

Since its origins in 1865, the observance now is known as Memorial Day and is a federal holiday celebrated on the last Monday of May.

In addition to the name change, the holiday has expanded over the years — first to honor all Americans who have died in wars and, later, as a day to visit cemeteries and decorate the graves of loved ones.

The day also has taken on additional, less formal, connotations and associations.

Memorial Day is the traditional start of summer vacation season and often marks the opening of beaches, including those at state parks, and municipal swimming pools (Jefferson City’s pools will open Wednesday).

The holiday also serves as a time to enjoy parades, concerts and barbecues.

And, the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend serves as the date for one of our country’s premier sporting events — the Indianapolis 500.

Many people will participate in a number of activities during the three-day holiday weekend.

With temperatures expected to be in the 90s, some people will venture to waterways or pools, while others will seek respite in air-conditioned homes to watch sporting events.

Still other will brave the heat to decorate graves with flowers or with miniature American flags.

Regardless of holiday plans, we encourage everyone to pause, remember and honor the men and women who have died in service to our nation.

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