Memorial Day is Monday.

Often taken for granted and widely regarded as the beginning of the summer season, Memorial Day, however, is very special. It is observed the last Monday in May each year to honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. To date, more than one million U.S. military personnel have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the United States. It is a humbling, staggering figure.

Memorial Day’s origins date to just after the conclusion of the Civil War. Southerners were first to honor the fallen among the Confederates at various events and gatherings across the South, but on May 5, 1868, Gen. John A. Logan, a leader of an organization known as the Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance to be held on May 30. He called it Decoration Day, and for decades, Decoration Day was known for honoring only Civil War veterans though over time Decoration Day gradually became known as Memorial Day.

During World War I with the U.S. military embroiled in a bloody conflict in Europe, Memorial Day evolved to commemorate U.S. military personnel who died in all wars. For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, but in 1968, the Congress approved the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May. The act went into effect in 1971, and it declared Memorial Day a federal holiday as well.

Commemorative gatherings and parades are common on Memorial Day. They often are emotional events featuring guest speakers, aspiring politicians and occasionally, a U.S. military veteran who lived to attest to the trials and tribulations of warfare.

As Americans, we have a responsibility to honor the U.S. military personnel who gave their lives in service to our nation and not just on Memorial Day. We should remember them every single day because their sacrifice grants us the privilege of living in the United States of America. And it is a privilege.

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