Observed on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day is used as a informal marker for the beginning of summer – the season for swimsuits, cook-outs and ice cream. But the holiday has a somber origin. Memorial Day is a day to remember the people who died in serving our country. The original name of the holiday, “Decoration Day,” arose from the tradition of placing flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers. Though this tradition has ancient origins, in America the practice held new significance after the Civil War, with more than 600,000 soldiers lost on both sides. Though many places in the South still honor a Decoration Day apart from the fun- and sun-soaked Memorial Day most Americans celebrate today.
So how can you best celebrate Memorial Day? Though many people still visit grave sites to honor our fallen soldiers, this custom has fallen to the wayside. It’s not necessary to commemorate the holiday steeped in guilt, but if you’re on your way to your favorite summer destination, look up a memorial site along the way. So many historic sites are tucked along roadsides or can be accessed through a short detour: well worth the time to honor our American heroes.
One of our founders, Ed Danberry, who is himself a veteran, has a long and storied family history of service. Eight of his ancestors served in the New Jersey Infantry and Cavalry during the Civil War. At the Danberry Cemetery in Hillsborough, twenty-five gravestones from Civil War soldiers are nestled into the Sourland Mountains. Though many of them have been rendered illegible by the passage of time, a flag was placed on each one to honor the memory of these fallen soldiers. A mere 25 miles from our Scotch Plains store, the burial ground at Sourland Mountains Preserve is well worth a visit for history buffs and patriotic citizens alike.
Even if you can’t make a side trip this weekend, take a moment during the holiday weekend to reflect on the selfless actions of the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice so you could enjoy the freedoms of sun, fun, and yes, even mattress sales.