The Real Meaning of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a three-day holiday. Please take time to remember the reason for the holiday. Here is a real-life example of what this holiday means to families.

Memorial Day is now a three-day holiday. Many of us think of it as a three-day holiday without much thought to why we have set aside this day as a holiday.

Memorial Day is personal with me and should be for most Americans. Here is one example.

Image of Marine lieutenant Ralph Russell
Marine Lieutenant Ralph A. Russell

Marine Lieutenant Ralph A. Russell was officially listed as missing in action on March 19, 1945. He was 22 years old and presumed to have been killed over the Sea of Japan in the waning days of World War II. According to the official military dispatch, his squadron was intercepted by the Japanese Air Force during a strike deep within the enemy’s inland sea area. He turned his plane in a counter-attack and his flying skills in combat contributed to destroying nine enemy planes and damaging seven others, helping others in his squadron to survive while he was forced down.

When last seen, his engine was smoking badly, he had opened his cockpit canopy and was preparing to jump. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroism and flying ability in combat. He was never seen or heard from again.

Some 68 years are now gone since he died—one young man out of 400,000 who died in World War II.

For those Americans who have lost a son, daughter, relative, or friend serving in our armed forces, it is still a time to recall the memory of those who died in the defense of our country. For those who are fortunate not to have lived through such a loss, I hope they will take some time from shopping or swimming to recall the sacrifice others have made to allow those of us who have followed them to enjoy our freedom and prosperity.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47