The true purpose of Memorial Day is to honor the memory of those who gave their lives for our country in war. Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, a time to decorate the graves of our Civil War dead (1861 to 1865).
More than 42 million Americans have served in our military during war. Of them, more than one million died in the service, whether in battle or elsewhere during wartime. Veterans often remind us that “freedom is not free.” America’s fighting men and women have purchased our freedom with their sacrifices since 1775. We owe our freedom and way of life to them.
World War I lasted from 1914 to 1918. That war is remembered for the use of trenches and the introduction of tanks, airplanes, and poison gas into modern warfare. Until the United States got involved, World War I had a stalemate between the Allies (the British and the French) and the Central Powers (the Germans, Austrians, and Turks). The arrival of American troops tipped the balance in favor of the Allies, who finally won the war in November 1918.
The Second World War began officially in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. The United States did not participate directly in the war until Japan attacked the U.S. at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. More than 16 million Americans served in the armed forces during World War II. Americans fought on multiple fronts throughout the world. Thanks to their efforts, the German and Japanese empires were defeated in 1945.
The American veterans of World War II survived the Great Depression and the war. They feared that widespread unemployment would return with peace. Fortunately, the veterans helped to build a prosperous America for several decades after the war. With the federal government’s help, many of the veterans went to college and purchased homes. They worked hard, and provided a better life for their children than what they had experienced for themselves before the war.
We must honor the sacrifices made for our country during the Cold War and the War on Terror. We must never forget those who have served and sacrificed in the conflicts since 1945 in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
The Bayonne Memorial Day ceremony takes place at 10:00 a.m. Monday by the World War I memorial at 5th and Dodge Streets. The parade will not take place this year. It will return in 2022. Please remember to thank a veteran.