For many, Memorial Day presents an excellent time for families and friends to gather together to celebrate the good fortune a long weekend brings. Many also use this time to honor veterans and the departed, with Monday formally recognized as a holiday for contemplation and reflection on the sacrifices the armed services have made for the U.S.

Life after military leads many veterans to re-adjust to civilian life, becoming absorbed in many of the same conflicts and obstacles facing new college graduates. Of course, many veterans face arduous factors, such as the traumas of war, that can bring difficult psychological issues. In this vein, a brief history of Memorial Day is in order.

Quick facts about Memorial Day
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Memorial Day began after the Civil War ended in 1868. Union soldiers wanted to consecrate a day to honor the dead, calling it "Decoration Day" and having it May 30. Since then, the source noted that the holiday has been catalyzed by numerous historical occurrences.

"If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of 15,000 men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung," said President James A. Garfield, according to the Latin Time.

The source noted that Garfield was the one of the first presidents to speak about Memorial Day. His sentiments reflected the burgeoning loyalty and respect shown to veterans in the U.S. This trend continues to this day – as contemporary U.S. presidents continually speak warmly about the sacrifices veterans have made for their country. 

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson stated that Waterloo, New York, was the original site of Memorial Day celebrations in 1866. However, the source said that during the immediate post-Civil War U.S., Memorial Day had not yet become the official holiday it is today.

At this juncture in history, those who wanted to honor the dead visited graves and laid flowers, similar to contemporary Memorial Day observances. According to the source, Memorial Day officially became a holiday in 1971, at the behest of the U.S. Congress. Many see the holiday as an excellent chance to venerate the departed soldiers who served their country admirably throughout the conflicts the U.S. has become involved in. 

Holiday continues to be robust 
USA Today reported that the holiday still brings a significant amount of attention – leading to increased travel and leisure time for working people. There are also other positive elements besides honor on Memorial Day. Benefits for veterans include the chance to spend quality time with loved ones, especially family members. Due to hectic summer schedules and the demands civilian life places on veterans, the chance to get away for a weekend for tranquility is an aspect of the holiday appreciated by both soldiers, veterans and civilians alike. This holiday can also serve as an educational tool for families and their children, allowing parents to teach their young ones about the military history of the U.S. 

The good news is that people who want to get away for Memorial Day this year will not likely face any major obstacles, at least from the climate or transportation industry. 

"We're not seeing any major weather systems or anything that would disrupt travel," said AAA spokeswoman Heather Hunter. " We're not seeing any big movement (in gas prices) that would deter people from traveling or spur more travel. Prices remain relatively similar to last year."

Hunter's comments will please individuals who seek to observe the holiday by traveling to a cemetery where loved ones are buried, or those who travel to visit veterans. Life after military may position a veteran in new and unexpected crossroads of life – a time when the support of family and friends is absolutely indispensable. 

Memorial Day brings a time for pondering what the sacrifices of the armed services mean, and how civil society should appropriately honor them.