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Remembering Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day: The Other “One Percent”

Guest article by Richard Kennedy, AIU Director of Military Relations

Over the past year, a lot has been written about the "one percent." Usually this refers to the top one percent of income earners and wealthiest people in the United States—and how their lives are so different from those of the "other 99 percent," or the rest of the population.

There is another "one percent," however, that doesn't get quite so much attention. The one percent I am referring to is the one percent of American people who wear the uniform of the United States military. There are many ways for Americans to be patriotic, such as by voting in every election, but being willing to potentially risk your life for your country definitely has a much greater feeling of commitment to it, a bigger sense of having your "skin in the game." Often, this extraordinary group of Americans is forgotten during our busy day-to-day lives.

At least we have Memorial Day as a way to acknowledge patriotism. There is some debate about how Memorial Day got its start in the US. Before the end of the Civil War in the South, women and children began decorating the graves of confederate soldiers. That led to the earliest name for Memorial Day: "Decoration Day." A big boost to Decoration Day’s visibility came when freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina gathered to commemorate Union soldiers who had died while being held there as prisoners of war.

World War I increased the emphasis on what ultimately came to be known as Memorial Day. It also helped turn the day from a state event into a national one. For a long time, people continued to remember that the purpose of the day was to honor the American dead from all wars. A problem started in 1971, however. That year, congress passed the Uniform Holidays Act. This act moved several holidays from their traditional days to Mondays, thereby creating several new three-day holiday weekends. Memorial Day was one of those days. It became a three-day weekend.

When something becomes part of a long weekend, it’s almost inevitable that its original meaning and significance will decline. And that is what has happened to Memorial Day. Memorial Day weekend is now the start of summer vacation and the date of the Indianapolis 500 race. To many Americans, it is no longer about honoring service members who died in their service to this nation, those who are a fraction of the original fraction—the one percent.

If you’re committed to serving your country and pursuing your education, learn more about our degree programs for military students at AIU. And don’t forget to honor our fallen soldiers this Memorial Day.

This article is presented by American InterContinental University. Contact us today if you’re interested in an opportunity to learn industry-relevant knowledge with an industry-current degree program for military students from American InterContinental University.