Memorial Day for many signifies the start of summer. It is the time for summer vacations, weddings, and graduations. We start off Memorial Day with sales, barbeques, and picnics. Families get together to celebrate. It is also a time to honor our war dead.
Prior to the War in Afghanistan and September 11, 2001, many of us thought of Memorial Day primarily as the start of the summer season with a fleeting thought turned to
our war dead. Over the past dozen years, the news of Afghanistan/Iraq, deployments, IEDs, and deaths gives a more somber feel to Memorial Day.
The practice of paying respects to the war dead has been around since ancient times. It was because of the Civil War that Memorial Day eventually became a national holiday.
So many young men died that almost every family in the US was affected. If we combined all the deaths of all the wars that the US has ever been in, it still would not even come close to the number of Civil War dead.
Because of the Civil War, our opinions on citizenship, rights, and responsibilities of the
individual and of the government changed. We recognized that we have rights and responsibilities to the nation, and the nation has rights and responsibilities to each individual citizen. If you are interested in learning more about the Civil War and how it changed us, I recommend reading Drew Gilpin Faust’s book, “Death and the Civil War”. It really brings to life what the Civil War was like on families during this time.
Cynthia Wilkes MD
Stafford Womens Health Associates
Stafford VA 22554