By James B. Reed
To many Americans, the Memorial Day holiday marks the official start of summer, celebrated with barbeques and picnics.
Amid these festivities is the solemn meaning of the holiday, the purpose of which is to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Originating as Decoration Day in May 1868, when the graves of war dead were decorated with flowers, Memorial Day was established as a national holiday on the last Monday of May, honoring all military personnel who have died in American wars.
The number of service member deaths in American wars and military operations since the Revolutionary War amounts to more than 1.1 million. The National Moment of Remembrance Act of 2000 asks that at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, all Americans pause for one minute to reflect on the sacrifices made by many to provide freedom for all.
Though Memorial Day is specifically for remembering those who have died in military service to America, we also can pause in gratitude for the millions of veterans among us who have served in the military and who continue to serve in numerous ways in communities across the U.S.
State legislators across America have been working on behalf of military veterans for many years in connecting them with important benefits and services.
The NCSL Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force, made up of about 40 state legislators and legislative staff, assists veterans through the sharing of effective policies among state legislatures in the provision of services to military veterans that supplement those provided by the federal government.
The next meeting of the task force will occur Aug. 6-7, in Nashville, Tenn. as part of the NCSL Legislative Summit. Session topics will include:
- Enhancing state military economies.
- Improving justice outcomes for veterans.
- Supporting military spouse employment.
- Preventing service member and veteran suicide.
- A special briefing on the report of the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service.
All those interested in state policies to help military veterans are encouraged to attend.
On Memorial Day, NCSL joins those across America remembering with gratitude the sacrifice of so many service members who gave their lives for our freedom. We stand as well with the families and friends of those who have died in honoring their lives of sacrifice.
Jim Reed staffs the NCSL Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs.