And this is the day we honor those Americans who, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, gave their last full measure of devotion.
But many worry this day's significance has been lost to barbecues and bargains.
"Many of us feel that changing this holiday to a three-day weekend has diminished the meaning of the day and greatly contributes to the general public's nonchalant observance of this day," said CMSgt. Tom Ressler, USAF (ret.), keynote speaker at the ceremony at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery near Boise on Monday.
(Memorial Day was moved to create a three-day weekend in May by the National Holiday Act of 1971.)
Still, there was no shortage of reverence at the Idaho Veterans Cemetery.
"It's good to for us to bring the family up here, the grandkids, and give them some exposure to honoring veterans and to spend some time together as a family," said Brian Mercil of Boise, whose father is buried in the cemetery.
And on Memorial Day 2014, America is a nation that has been at war for a long, long time. So long that those born on that fateful day of 9/11, are now teenagers.
"We live in a time of not much peace," said Hannah St. Michell, 16, of Meridian. "There's a lot of struggle going on. 9/11 started that off. I remember the day very clearly, even though I was only 3 or 4."
A philosopher once said only the dead have seen the end of war.
We among the living can only hope he's wrong as we pause to salute the sacrifice of generations of Americans.