Putting the memorial back into Memorial Day

    Monday begins the unofficial start of summer. Pools across the country are opening, picnic tables are being wiped clean from a winter of gathering grime and grills are being fired up for the season’s first cookout.

    The long weekend is often one of celebration and relaxation. And while many of us enjoy having that extra day off – with the excitement of summer finally being here, the school year almost being over and the taste of that first summer bratwurst – it’s easy to forget the true meaning and purpose of Memorial Day: remember, reflect and honor those who have given service to our country and made the ultimate sacrifice.

    Although we don’t know all the details of the first official Memorial Day celebration, which historians date back to the 1860s, with the significance of the day often being overshadowed and so many troops currently serving overseas, the need to honor those who served is greater than ever. 

    This Memorial Day, at 3 p.m. local time, I encourage you to pause in taking advantage of that sale at the mall, step away from the grill, put the backyard volleyball game on hold, turn-off the television and stop to observe a moment of silence in respect and remembrance of all who have died in service to our nation – fighting for the freedom we cherish so deeply.

    And while you pause to remember these individuals on Monday, I encourage you to think about the men and women who are currently serving in the Armed Forces, who wish they could be with you this weekend, but have chosen to protect and defend our nation. We are grateful for their sacrifice, appreciate their courage, and are thankful for their devotion to our nation. 

    In addition to holding a moment of silence at 3 p.m., use this Memorial Day to thank a veteran. Lay a flower on the grave of someone who served. Remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and say your own prayer for those who are currently in harm’s way. This Monday, please join me in taking an extra step to help our country put the Memorial back into Memorial Day.

    U.S. Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) represents Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District.

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