Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kickoff to summer for many. It’s a long weekend that we fill with shopping, parades and cookouts. It’s a great day for patriotism and remembering how blessed we are to live in a free country.

That freedom came at a high price, and that’s what this weekend is truly about. Memorial Day began as Decoration Day in the late 1860s. As the Civil War ended, veterans of the war came together with civilians to decorate the graves of soldiers from both sides of the war. It was a gesture that signaled moving forward without forgetting the past. As the country entered more wars around the world in the 20th century, the day became a chance to honor all of the U.S. soldiers who died for their country. 

That tradition continues today as Memorial Day, a solemn day to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend freedom. President James Garfield once said, “for love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.” We honor those deaths and the freedom they bought by keeping their memory alive on Memorial Day.

Use this weekend to learn your family’s military history, volunteer to decorate the graves of military members or support a charity that helps the families of those who lost their lives in service. Memorial Day is both a day to remember those heroes who didn’t make it back and ensure we’re always ready to preserve the freedom they passed down to us.