For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.James A. Garfield (20th U.S. President)

Every last Monday in May the United States commemorates Memorial Day, honoring the men and women who gave their lives in service to the United States and her founding ideals to protect the fundamental, inalienable rights bestowed on all people.

During the long weekend with family, it is also important to commemorate this solemn day of remembrance.

Memorial Day was born out of the sacrifice and heartbreak of the American Civil War. First held in 1868 as Decoration Day by a nation still recovering from the losses of the bloodiest war in its history, the purpose of the day was to place flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers.

Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, USA

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier monument in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, USA

General James Garfield, who later became the 20th President of the United States, joined children orphaned by the war to spread flowers on graves at the Arlington Cemetery in Virginia leading to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. His own remarks joined a reading of the late President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal…”

President Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, but his initial efforts to bring peaceful reconciliation following the war set a milestone in America’s journey to live up to its founding ideals. His leadership brings up lessons that remain relevant to the challenges facing divided countries today.

The founding principles of the United States declared universal rights afforded to all human beings. This foundation gives American patriots the opportunity to become global leaders. An American patriot puts their life on the line not only to protect loved ones at home but strangers in foreign lands. This ethic has guided U.S. efforts to reconstruct former enemy nations, as seen after the Second World War.

The American patriot’s experience of serving a greater cause and the world is a priceless lesson in the value of sacrifice and the connection that they share with the larger human family.

On Memorial Day, we are reminded of the true meaning of patriotism through the service of men and women who paid the ultimate price to secure the rights endowed by our creator to all people.

How might we honor these patriots on this and every day?