What do you plan to do this Memorial Day? For most it’s a day away from work — a time to spend with family and friends around the grill or on the water, the first real sign that summer is approaching.

For others it’s a day to catch up.

But for many others, it will be a day to reflect on the lives of a special someone — the brother, sister, friend or sweetheart who died defending their country, our country, so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.

The history of the holiday goes back to May 5, 1866, when residents of Waterloo, N.Y., for the first time conducted a communitywide observance of the dead by decorating the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

Other towns followed suit and two years to the day of that celebration, John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former U.S. sailors and soldiers, made the following declaration:

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”

On that day, Gen. James Garfield spoke at Arlington National Cemetery and graves of more than 20,000 Confederate and Union soldiers were decorated by the 5,000 people in attendance.

By the late 1800s, many cities began celebrating Memorial Day and after World War I, the tone of the day changed. Today, observances honor all those killed in a war in which America fought — from the estimated 5,000 who died in the Revolutionary War to the 148 killed during Operation Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf. Those who have died in the war on terrorism have been added to the list.

Many ceremonies honoring the dead are scheduled to get under way on this Memorial Day, the day we have set aside time to remember.

So what are you going to do Monday?

This Week's Circulars