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NEWS | May 21, 2013

What does Memorial Day mean to you?

By Chief Master Sgt. Gigi Manning 315th Airlift Wing command chief

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.

The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890, it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.)

It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three-day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee. (

Memorial Day should not be treated lightly, as it is the last three-day weekend before the summer and also the kickoff to the 101 Critical Days of Summer. It is a day when every American should take time to reflect on those that have given their all in defense of our nation. Even if you don't personally know someone that has lost his or her life, I'd wager there is only about three degrees of separation between you and someone you know who has.

In almost every military conflict that has been fought on American soil or elsewhere, there have been American losses. Each should be remembered, honored, and accorded the proper respect due as a military member.

Although our military is an all-volunteer force, and we make up less than one percent of the population, we ensure the safety and security of 100 percent of America.

Unfortunately, some of the 99 percent would rather malign, disrespect, or in some way dishonor our country. As military members, our core values and innate patriotism allow us to "protect and defend the Constitution ..." This oath of allegiance for protection gives the disrespectful the right to be disrespectful, regardless of how hard it is to watch sometimes. It is for these members of society that we must never forget what we stand for, who we represent, and who stood before us.

So enjoy your Memorial Day weekend, but take the time on Monday to reflect on those that have made the ultimate sacrifice.