May, the fifth month of the year, could just as easily be called the month of honor.
Mother's Day, Armed Forces Day, and Memorial Day, not to mention the many high school and college graduations across the country all happen in the merry month of May.
Mom, our armed forces, those who gave their lives in service to our country, and graduating students are certainly all worthy of our honor and celebrations.
But there's one group that really should stand out above the others, the fallen vets. Sadly, they've been given short shrift in recent years.
What we now refer to as Memorial Day began as Decoration Day just after the Civil War in 1868. It was established as a day to remember the war dead by decorating their graves with flowers.
The North and The South originally observed Decoration Day on different days until the mid-twentieth century when the last Monday of the month was chosen to honor all Americans who died while serving in the military.
Traditional observance of Memorial Day has fallen off over the years and many Americans have forgotten the meaning and traditions of the day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored or neglected.
Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades.
Most people in our nihilistic, self-absorbed culture today recognize Memorial Day less as a day to put flowers on the graves of our war dead, and more as the unofficial beginning of summer. It's a three-day holiday, time to get out the barbeque, watch a baseball game or car racing, and maybe go away for a couple of days to a resort or spa and kick back.
For those who understand the true significance of the day, however, there are lots of ways to observe it the way it was intended originally, such as attending one of the local parades held on Memorial Day in large and small cities all over the country.
Most of these feature marching bands and an overall military theme with the National Guard and other servicemen participating along with veterans and military vehicles from various wars.
Other traditional observances included wearing red poppies, visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes, and visiting memorials.
Every year the National Park Service, the Boy Scouts, and other veterans and civic-minded groups place flags on the graves at the National Cemeteries across the country. This is in the true spirit of Decoration Day. Many of these groups welcome volunteers to help in this effort (but check with the groups first).
The correct way to fly Old Glory on this day is to raise it briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lower it to the half-staff position, where it should remain only until noon. Then it is raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.
The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.
The National Memorial Day Concert takes place on the west lawn of the United States Capitol each year and is televised. Music is performed, and respect is paid to the men and women who gave their lives for their country.
To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed in December 2000. It asks that at 3 p.m. local time all Americans "voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps."
Because we live in a time of secular hypersensitivity to all things even remotely religious, Congress just couldn't bring itself to use the word "pray" in that resolution. But I will.
Whatever else you do this Memorial Day, think about those vets who fought and died for our freedoms, say a little prayer for them, and thank Heaven that we still have men and women today who willingly put their lives on the line for all of us.