Memorial Day’s True Meaning Revealed In 30 Powerful Photographs

For some people Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer, but the holiday is a much more somber and significant time. Each year, on the last Monday of May, the United States observes Memorial Day as a time to remember those who gave their lives while in service to their country. It is a time to both remember those brave men and women, as well as honor and appreciate the sacrifice that they made so the rest of us can live in freedom.

During the dark days of World War II, Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in a wartime broadcast, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” That statement is true of all fallen veterans throughout our nation’s history — those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and laid down their lives so the rest of us could be free deserve all the respect and remembrance we can give.

While it may be easy to get wrapped up in the three-day weekend, special store sales, and barbecues with friends, there are so many American families that are dealing with the loss or memory of a loved one who died fighting for their country on our behalf.

Here are photographs from the Armed Forces that show the true meaning of Memorial Day and remind us of the high cost of freedom.


U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Daniel Hughes

Master Sgt. Robert Lilly pays his respects to a fallen veteran at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Boulder City, Nevada.


U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan

A battle cross sits on display during sunrise at Avon Park Air Force Range, Florida. U.S. Air Force Airmen from the 93d Air Ground Operations Wing set up the cross for Lt. Col. William Schroeder.


U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Joel Pfiester

Members of the Whiteman Air Force Base Honor Guard.


U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Loumania Stewart

A Coast Guard family takes part in Flags Across America ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.


DoD/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cody Hendrix

Aaron Howson, a French citizen, helps place luminaries upon the graves of fallen American service members at the Epinal American Cemetery. Howson comes to the cemetery every Sunday to lower the American flag during taps and pay tribute to the fallen service members.


U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson

The remains of U.S. Marine Corps Pvt. John M. Tillman lay in a casket draped with the American colors during a burial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu.


U.S. Army/Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery

Robert D. Jordan receives the American flag during the full honors repatriation of his uncle, U.S. Marine Corps Pvt. Edwin W. Jordan, 17, at Arlington National Cemetery.


U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres

A military Battle Cross is displayed for fallen U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Austin Cahill, a vehicle commander with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, during his memorial service at the base chapel, Marine Corps Base Hawaii.


U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Megan Garcia

Sgt. John Baker, Tomb Sentinel, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), places a rose at one of the four crypts of the Unknowns during his last walk ceremony in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.


U.S. Air Force/Sean Kimmons

Emily Johnson sheds tears in front of the headstone for her older brother, Army 1st Lt. David Andrew Johnson, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in 2012.


U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Liliana Moreno

Rudy Garcia, a Vietnam veteran, looks at names on the Traveling Wall, an 80 percent replica of the Vietnam Memorial.


U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. David Salanitri

S. Jayne Buchholz, wife of Lt. Col. Camilo Guerrero takes a private moment to stand alone by her husbands grave side at the conclusion of funeral services March 12, 2018 at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado.


U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Leah Ferrante

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matthew Scully, a team medic with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), pays respects to the fallen.


U.S. Air Force/Master Sgt. Stephen D. Schester

Robert Etchberger looks at a photo of his brother, Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger during the 50th memorial anniversary ceremony for Lima Site 85 at Gunter Annex, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. Chief Etchberger was killed during extraction from Lima Site 85, a covert operation in Laos in which 12 Americans were killed or went missing during the Vietnam War.


U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Aaron S. Patterson

The American flag is folded during a burial service at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Honolulu.


U.S. Air Force/SrA Steven A. Ortiz

Servicemembers, families and civilians participate in the Annual Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico.


U.S. Navy/Petty Officer 2nd Class Jeffrey Hanshaw

A Sailor plays taps during the USS Oklahoma Memorial Ceremony on Ford Island.


U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan

Guests hold hands during a memorial service in honor of Capt. Mark Weber at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Weber, a 38th Rescue Squadron combat rescue officer and Texas native, was killed in an HH-60G Pave Hawk crash in Anbar Province, Iraq, March 15, 2018.


U.S. Air Force/Rebecca Amber

The 58,299 names on the Mobile Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall are engraved, which allows visitors to obtain a pencil rubbing of the names of fallen servicemembers.


U.S. Navy/Chief Mass Communication Specialist Darryl Wood

Electronics Technician Second Class Garrett Handwork strikes the bell after each submarine’s name is called at the annual Submarine Veterans Memorial and Submarine Hall of Fame Induction ceremony. U.S. Navy Submariners gather annually to remember their shipmates lost “on eternal patrol.”


New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs/Mark C. Olsen

A visitor reads the names on the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Holmdel, New Jersey, prior to the annual New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Remembrance Day ceremony.


U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Loumania Stewart

A member of a Coast Guard family takes part in Flags Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Coast Guard members, family and friends gathered to place American and Coast Guard flags on the graves of Coast Guardsmen.


U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Matthew B. Fredericks

Loadmasters from the 1st Special Operations Squadron drop a wreath from an MC-130H Combat Talon II during a memorial flight off the coast of the Philippines. The flight honored those who were lost when a 1st SOS MC-130E, call sign STRAY 59, crashed 37 years ago during an exercise, killing eight crew member and 15 passengers.


U.S. Army National Guard/Civ. Zac Lehr

Arkansas National Guard Senior Enlisted Leader, Command Sergeant Major Steven Veazey pauses at the Arkansas Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol.


U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman William Carlisle

Air Force Col. Michael Russ, assigned to U.S. Forces Korea, pays respect to the Wall of Remembrance at the UN Memorial Cemetery. The UN Memorial Cemetery honors soldiers from 16 countries that were killed during the Korean War.


U.S. Army/Patrick A. Albright

Capt. Daniel Johnson, an instructor at the Military Advisor Training Academy, Fort Benning, Georgia, plays the bagpipes at the beginning of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps Day Dawn Service, April 25, at the 173rd Airborne Brigade Memorial at the National Infantry Museum.


New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs/Mark C. Olsen

A New Jersey Vietnam Veteran remembers a fallen comrade during the annual New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Remembrance Day ceremony at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans Memorial.


U.S. Army/Elizabeth Fraser/Arlington National Cemetery

Makenna Bell lays flowers at a grave in Arlington National Cemetery.


U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Stanley Moy

Sergeant First Class Matthew Sanders lays a wreath during the Hindenburg Memorial Ceremony at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst. The wreath presentation was done to honor all Navy and Army airship losses.


U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 2nd Class Loumania Stewart

A Coast Guard and National Ensign mark a grave of a fallen Coast Guardsman during an annual Flags Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery.

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