Memorial Day and its late summer counterpart, Labor Day, are known as bookend holidays. They mark the traditional opening of the summer holiday season. The three-day weekends provide some respite between the end of one school year and the beginning of another.

Originally adopted in 1868 as Decoration Day in honor of fallen Civil War soldiers, Memorial Day has grown to encompass all U.S. men and women killed or missing in action from all wars.

President Bush has asked that flags fly at half staff until noon today. At 11 a.m. today, Americans are asked to unite in prayer for permanent peace. At 3 p.m., President Bush has asked Americans to observe the National Moment of Remembrance in honor of those who lost their lifes in defense of freedom and liberty.

"Those who lost their lives in the defense of freedom helped protect our citizens and lay the foundation of peace for people everywhere," Mr. Bush said in a Memorial Day statement on his White House web site. "On Memorial Day, a grateful nation pays tribute to their personal courage, love of country and dedication to duty."

Americans owe servicemen and women and their families a debt of gratitude. Although such appreciation surges in times of war, the gratitude should be never-ending.

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