Memorial Day is one of those holidays that many people don’t entirely understand. Is it to honor lost loved ones? Is it to honor all veterans? Is it to honor veterans who have died? Or is it to honor veterans who died while serving the United States?

Many people ignore the real meaning of the holiday and spend their time on vacation, planting flowers, mowing their yards, hanging out with family and friends, going to the beach, having BBQs and pool parties. And that’s okay because that is the result of all of the hard work and sacrifice that our veterans have made on our behalf so that we have the freedom to spend our time the way we want to.

Memorial Day, in a nutshell, is always observed on the last Monday of May every year – and it is to honor those who have lost their lives serving in the U.S. Military.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. In the late 1860’s, many Americans decorated the graves of fallen soldiers with flags and flowers. It wasn’t until, in 1868, that Union General John A. Logan called for an official nationwide day of remembrance on May 30th. He had chosen the date because it wasn’t the anniversary of any specific battle. In 1950, Congress passed a resolution requesting the president to issue a proclamation to call on Americans to observe Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace. Memorial Day finally became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Today, the holiday is marked by speeches, parades and ceremonies at military cemeteries and other sites across the country. American flags, on Memorial Day, are to be flown at half-staff until noon and then raised to full-staff for the rest of the day as a symbol of our nation’s determination and resilience.

On Memorial Day, I usually try to partake in a few “Memorial Day” activities – I try to make it to the local service in my hometown to honor our local vets who were lost; I make sure to catch the National Memorial Day Concert on TV; and I look up the name of a veteran who died in service.

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This year I found Army Tech Sergeant Matthew McKeon, who was killed in action almost 80 years ago but was just laid to rest recently in California alongside his wife, who passed away two years ago at the age of 99.

His remains were identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. McKeon was killed in battle in Germany when he was just 25-years old. I found a photo of him at this website.

He left behind a wife, Jean, and his daughter, Marsha. Jean died never knowing what happened to her husband but now they are together again – and McKeon is back with his family where he belongs.

Thank you for your service, Army Tech Sergeant Matthew McKeon.