Memorial Day weekend serves as the unofficial start of summer. In the military, it is also known for kicking off the “101 Critical Days of Summer,” the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Beyond being the left bookend of the summer season, Memorial Day is the day we honor the men and women who died in service to their country.

The origins of Memorial Day lie in Decoration Day, which was established in the years following the Civil War. Cities and towns across the country celebrated Decoration Day by decorating the graves of the fallen with flowers. Memorial Day became a federal holiday in 1971 and is often best represented by the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The solemnity and dignity of that event captures the good and necessary regard in which we should hold those men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice when called upon by their country.

The book of Joshua recounts how God spoke to Joshua, telling him that stones of remembrance should be placed by the Jordan River as a memorial to God’s deliverance of the Israelites. They were called to remember. Our nation is blessed in so many ways, and on Memorial Day, we remember the blessings that have come through sacrifice, protecting us from oppression and giving us freedom.

Whether celebrating the long Memorial Day weekend in quiet reflection or gathering with family and friends around a barbecue, the one thing we must all do is never forget that our freedom has come at a cost.