Here's all you have to know to get up to speed on one of America's premier sporting events.
May 28, 2012
According to the National World War II Museum the holiday originally known as Decoration Day has lost its identity.
It confirmed what most of us suspect. Eight out of 10 people said they did not understand what this day is for.
Although some do.
A letter written by a mother, first shared by ABC News in 2005, on the true meaning of Memorial Day:
In the past I would look forward to Memorial Day. It represented the beginning of the summer season at the Jersey Shore and a three-day weekend. Then we lost our Phil in Iraq. Memorial Day has now become a day of reflection and remembrance. It is a day to remember all of our Fallen Heroes from all of the wars. It is a day to think about the families that will forever grieve for their lost loved ones. It is a day to be thankful to those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice. They fought and died to win the freedom and democracy that we Americans cherish so dearly. They also fought and died to bring that same freedom and democracy to the people of other countries as well. As the family of a Fallen Hero, we are so proud of our loved ones who knowingly put themselves in harm's way so they could make a difference in the lives of others..."
While traditional observances of Memorial Day have diminished, there are places where the memory is kept alive.
Since the late 1950s, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 Soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment have placed small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery.
They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.
Today is also a secular reminder that those that came before us still matter. As writer G.K. Chesterton puts it:
"Tradition means giving a vote to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead."
Facts have a way of not allowing you to ignore them:
Korean War: 33,651 American deaths.
Vietnam War: 58,168 American deaths.
A month of the Gulf War: 293 American deaths.
Iraq: Almost 4500 American deaths.
Afghanistan: Over 1500 American deaths and climbing.
The largest number of American fatalities by far:
World War II: 407,316 deaths.
19,000 American deaths at the Battle of the Bulge, alone.
13,000 American deaths in hand to hand combat in Okinawa
This doesn't include the wounded and the lives touched.
It’s a day to remember that the United States Military protects the freedoms we have every day.
And that there are soldiers right now in harm's way, in places far from home, who matter very much too.
Let’s bring them home safe as soon as we can so no mother will have to write another letter.