Today is Memorial Day in the United States, and in keeping with a tradition dating back to the end of that country’s Civil War, members of the U.S. Embassy and American Legion’s Alan Seeger Post 2, along with members of the U.S. community here, will observe the holiday with a solemn ceremony at the Mexico City National Cemetery in the San Rafael neighborhood.
Memorial Day, which was originally known as Decoration Day, was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery in accordance with an official proclamation by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.
In 1882, the name Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day, and in 1971, the date was declared a national holiday.
Unlike Veterans Day, which is always observed on Nov. 11 (commemorating the 1918 Armistice of World War I) in honor of all those, living and dead, who served their nation in times of war, Memorial Day is a time to honor the memory of those patriots who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
But while it is only on the fourth Monday in May that the U.S. people officially pay homage to those who died for their country, the entire world benefits every day from the sacrifices they made.
For it is those who have put their lives on the line in defense of freedom and social equality — including those who have fought against organized crime and terrorist activities — who are the true guardians of democracy.
Here in Mexico, the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto is waging a courageous battle against those who torture, traffic in and terrorize innocent people.
But while progress has been made in this terrible battle, it has come at a very high cost, and there is still much to be done to ensure the safety and freedom of all of the nation’s people.
Hundreds of Mexican military personnel and police officers have already lost their lives, and those who celebrate U.S. Memorial Day today in Mexico should also pause to recognize the sacrifices of these noble Mexican heroes in helping to create a more secure future for both countries.
During the U.S. Embassy Memorial Day ceremony today, several surviving members of Mexico’s Squadron 201, who served with U.S. forces in during the Second World War, will be in attendance.
Known as the Aztec Eagles, these brave men volunteered to work with U.S. ground personnel by flying P-47 bombers in the Pacific in a campaign to free the Philippines from foreign domination.
They are the living symbols of two nations working together in a common cause to combat fascism.
These men are also a tangible reminder of the close friendship that has been at the core of the bilateral relationship between Mexico and the United States for more than a century.
So while remembering those U.S. soldiers who died for their country in times of duress, it is important to also remember their Mexican counterparts, who also risked their lives for a common objective of universal freedom.
For it is through this common sacrifice that an unbreakable binational bound was created, and while differences on issues of trade, immigration and security may sometimes tear at that relationship, nothing can ever destroy the indissoluble friendship that binds the two countries.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at [email protected]