By Sen. Mike Kowall
15th Senate District
The end of May in Michigan means warmer temperatures are here to stay and summer will soon be upon us.
Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 20, of course. But it is the last Monday in May — Memorial Day — that marks its unofficial start. On May 30, people all across Michigan will participate in picnics and parades and fire up the family barbecues. Some will head to the lake or cottage and enjoy a three-day weekend to get a head start on summer.
I enjoy these annual traditions, but I also appreciate that Memorial Day holds more significance than simply being the day that kicks off summer. Memorial Day is a time to remember our fellow Americans who have died to preserve our freedoms.
First widely observed on May 30, 1868, Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day — because the nation’s Civil War dead were honored by decorating their graves. A proclamation by General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers, commemorated the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers.
After World War I, observations began to memorialize those who died in all of America’s wars.
In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be observed the last Monday in May, with Veterans Day designated for all veterans, living and dead, on November 11.
Every year, the Michigan Senate sets aside a session day to honor those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. The Michigan Senate’s 22nd Annual Memorial Day Service will be held on Thursday, May 26. The ceremony pays tribute to Michigan residents killed in action during the previous 12 months.
The Senate’s Memorial Day Service is a remarkably poignant event that reminds all in attendance of the precious cost of liberty. We are blessed to live in the land of the free, but that blessing has been bought with the lives of more than a million Americans.
I am always honored to host area residents for the service. Local veterans interested in attending the May 26 ceremony, scheduled for 10 a.m., should RSVP to my office toll-free at 1-866-301-6515.
We can all do something this Memorial Day to honor the brave men and women who gave their lives for their country. One way is to join thousands of volunteers who will pay respect to all our nation’s fallen heroes by decorating their graves with American flags.
One can also commemorate the day by displaying the American flag, attending a local ceremony or parade or by simply thanking a veteran for his or her service.
A special tribute is the National Moment of Remembrance, which asks all citizens to pause at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to honor those who laid down their lives.
I hope you take a moment this Memorial Day to think about the price that has been paid for our freedom. I am thankful for those who gave their lives for us; may we never forget their sacrifice.
This column first appeared in the Oakland Press. Senator Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, is the Michigan Senate majority floor leader. He serves the residents of the 15th Senate District, representing western Oakland County.