Robert Dilenschneider

Despite the many differences in our nation during this, an especially divisive election year, let us make Memorial Day an event that draws us together. It is, after all, the day when we commemorate those who have died while serving in the U.S. military — the men and women to whom we Americans owe the deepest possible debt.

The brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have given their lives in defense of our nation did not hesitate to perform their duties. Let us unite, therefore, on Monday, May 27, in honoring them. As we do so, let us remember that we Americans have overcome domestic divisions before. As long as we maintain our love of Country and our determination to move it forward, we can overcome the current difficulties too.

As we mark Memorial Day 2024, let us remember not only the fallen, but also the 2.1 million men and women now in uniform, as well as the almost 800,000 civilians who support them. We are especially indebted to the 170,000 active-duty troops who serve in foreign lands in often dangerous posts. We have people in 80 countries around the world.

And let us never forget that our nation has paid a terrible price for the freedoms we enjoy: The number of dead in all conflicts since the American Revolution approaches 1.2 million.

The history of Memorial Day begins in 1868 when May 30 was designated Decoration Day to honor those who died during the Civil War. On that first observance, 20,000 graves at Arlington Cemetery were decorated with spring flowers.

By 1890, all Northern states recognized Decoration Day as a holiday. Southern states, however, chose to honor their dead on separate days. After World War I, the purpose of the holiday was changed to honor everyone who died fighting in a U.S. war, unifying both North and South in a single commemoration.

In 1971, Congress designated the last Monday in May as a federal holiday and changed the name to Memorial Day to distinguish it from Veterans Day when all those honorably discharged from the Armed Forces are celebrated.

As we know, Memorial Day also marks the unofficial start of summer — a time for holiday pleasures like family and friends getting together for a cookout, the first trip of the year to a beach and other happy events. But no matter how we mark this special day, let's all stay safe.

And let us all keep in our hearts the courageous men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. Remember to Remember.


Robert L. Dilenschneider is the Founder and CEO of The Dilenschneider Group, an international communications firm.