This is the one thing veterans want you to know about Memorial Day

Do not thank me for my service because today is not about me at all.

That's what a number of fellow military veterans said, when I asked what they wanted people to know about Memorial Day.

"It's not about us," said Staff Sgt. Jay Arnold, a soldier with the Illinois Army National Guard. "It's about those who went before us."

While often seen as just a day off work or great time to barbeque, Memorial Day — not to be confused with Veterans Day — is a day of remembrance for approximately 1 million men and women who have died in defense of the United States since 1775.

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Memorial Day across America 2017
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Memorial Day across America 2017
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 29: Earl Granville walks through Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day May 29, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. A member of the Pennsylvania National Guard, Granville was deployed to Afghanistan with the 1/109th Infantry Regiment in December 2007 whe he lost his left leg to a roadside bomb. Granville now works with Operation Enduring Warrior and participated in the final 10 miles of the Ruck to Remember, a 60 mile hike from Harpers Ferry to the cemetery. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Army members hold the U.S. flag as they attend the Museum's annual Memorial Day commemoration ceremony to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States Armed Forces, at the Intrepid museum in New York, U.S., May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
World War II veteran and Pearl Harbor survivor Armando "Chick" Galella (L) tosses a floral wreath following an annual Memorial Day commemoration ceremony to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States Armed Forces, at the Intrepid museum in New York, U.S., May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) and Vice President Mike Pence (background) greet young Christian Jacob, whose US Marine father Christopher was killed in a training accident at Twentynine Palms, California and his mother Brittany, during a visit to Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery as part of Memorial Day observance, Arlington,Virginia, U.S., May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) take part in "Flags-in", where they will place a flag at each of the 284,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A soldier from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) takes part in "Flags-in", where a flag is placed at each of the 284,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
BOSTON, MA - MAY 29: A woman holding a dog walks past the 37,252 flags placed on the Boston Common to honor the number of lost Massachusetts military members on May 29, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. In an annual tradition, volunteers plant tens of thousands of flags on the Boston Common for Memorial Day. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 29: Brittany Jacobs of Hertford, North Carolina, embraces her son, Christian Jacobs, 6, while sitting next to the grave of her husband, U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Chris Jacobs, in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day May 29, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. Part of the 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division, Sgt. Jacobs served in Aghanistan and Iraq and was killed during a training exercise in California in 2011. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
KENNEBUNKPORT, ME - MAY 29: John MacMillan of Swampscott Massachusetts, a veteran of the Army, carries a flag as he walks towards Docks Square to watch the Memorial Day Parade in Kennebunkport Monday, May 29, 2017. (Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 29: James House hugs his mother Melanie House during a Memorial Day ceremony held before a baseball game between the San Diego Padres and the Chicago Cubs at PETCO Park on May 29, 2017 in San Diego, California. John House, a navy corpsman, died in Iraq in 2005. MLB players across the league are wearing special uniforms to commemorate Memorial Day.(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
People visit relatives' graves on Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on May 29, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
World War II veterans and Pearl Harbor survivors John Seelie (L), 95, and Armando "Chick" Gallela, 93, attend an annual Memorial Day commemoration ceremony to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States Armed Forces, at the Intrepid museum in New York, U.S., May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
A man disguised as former U.S. president Abraham Lincoln attends an annual Memorial Day commemoration ceremony to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States Armed Forces, at the Intrepid museum in New York, U.S., May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Army members hold the U.S. flag as they attend an annual Memorial Day commemoration ceremony to honor the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the United States Armed Forces, at the Intrepid museum in New York, U.S., May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) is escorted for a ceremony to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, as part of Memorial Day observance, Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) holds flowers and gestures towards the sky as he greets a mother who has lost a son in recent conflicts, along with Vice President Mike Pence (background) at Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery as part of Memorial Day observance, Arlington,Virginia, U.S., May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
In town for the Memorial Day weekend, Vietnam War veterans Jim Corrales (L) of Fontana, California and Mike Hodge of Seattle, Washington, comfort one another in front of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, U.S., May 26, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
BOSTON, MA - MAY 29: A woman wearing an American flag sweatshirt pauses to look at the 37,252 flags placed on the Boston Common to honor the number of lost Massachusetts military members on May 29, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. In an annual tradition, volunteers plant tens of thousands of flags on the Boston Common for Memorial Day. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MAY 29: A man with an American flag and a remembrance poppy attached to his jacket participates in the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade at Bay Ridge in Brooklyn borough of New York, United States on May 29, 2017. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 29: Lisa Chau and her daughter Jaden pray at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia May 29, 2017. Chau was marking Memorial Day by visiting the graves of female service members. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
COMMERCE CITY, CO - MAY 29: Trent Johnson, 4, leads the way for members of the Military Order of the Purple Heart Chapter 375 from Aurora, CO in the state's largest Memorial Day parade takes place on May 29, 2017 in Commerce City, Colorado. In its 53rd year, the 1.5 mile parade honors veterans for their service to the country and includes a skydiving tribute and more than 90 military units, bands, floats, antique car clubs, and more. (Photo by Kathryn Scott/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 29: A wreath is seen at President John F. Kennedy's grave at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia May 29, 2017. Today would have marked Kennedy's hundredth birthday. (Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 29: Boy Scouts volunteer to hand out roses to visitors at the Arlington National Cemetery Visitors Center on Memorial Day May 29, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. U.S. The blooms were donated by the Memorial Day Flowers Foundation, an organization that works with families and businesses to place roses at headstones and hand out flowers to visitors and veterans. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MAY 29: A girl gestures with an American flagged cap during the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade at Bay Ridge in Brooklyn borough of New York, United States on May 29, 2017. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 29: Members of Operation Enduring Warrior pose for a photograph with George 'Sonny' McClintock while he stood watch over the grave of his son, U.S. Army Special Forces Engineer Sgt. Matthew Quinn McClintock, in Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day May 29, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. Matthew Quinn McClintock was killed in 2016 while deployed to Helmand, Afghanistan. The OEW members participated in the Ruck to Remember, a 60 mile hike from Harpers Ferry to the cemetery over the Memorial Day weekend. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MAY 29: A veteran salutes while attending a march during the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade at Bay Ridge in Brooklyn borough of New York, United States on May 29, 2017. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MAY 29: A veteran gestures while attending a march during the Brooklyn Memorial Day Parade at Bay Ridge in Brooklyn borough of New York, United States on May 29, 2017. (Photo by Anna Sergeeva/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump is assisted as he lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery as part of Memorial Day observance, Arlington,Virginia, U.S., May 29, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Theiler TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
US President Donald Trump listens to the national anthem before laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery to mark Memorial Day in Arlington, Virginia, on May 29, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON DC -MAY 28: A passenger on a motorcycle takes a photo as they and thousands of others made their way on Constitution Ave. today. Thousands of motorcyclists swarmed the Washington, D.C. area today to take part for the 30th annual Rolling Thunder Memorial Day event. (Photo by Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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"Memorial Day isn't about romanticizing war or worshiping military veterans. It's a day to recognize personal sacrifices of veterans and active military alike, regardless of their inclinations toward war," said Tech Sgt. Bill Monahan, an airman serving at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. "Too often today, ones political beliefs skew opinions on what constitutes honorable service so it is important to have a day where we can look back at who laid it all on the line."

The day has its roots in the Civil War, with a "Decoration Day" taking place three years after the war's end to decorate Union graves with flowers. Similar observances happened around the same time in the south. But it was Maj. Gen. John A. Logan who declared the day should be observed on May 30.

With an act of Congress in 1971, the day was proclaimed a national holiday for the last Monday in May and expanded to honor all who have died in American wars.

So you should definitely enjoy your day off, grill some steaks, and spend time with family and friends. But I challenge you — if you don't have any connection to the military — to really learn about just one fallen service member.

They didn't join the military for fame or reward, ambition or status. "In simple obedience to duty as they understood it," reads the inscription at Arlington's Confederate Memorial. "These men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all — and died."

20 PHOTOS
Soldiers participate in 'Flags In' tradition for Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery
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Soldiers participate in 'Flags In' tradition for Memorial Day at Arlington National Cemetery
Members of the 3rd Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) take part in "Flags-in", where they will place a flag at each of the 284,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A soldier from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) takes part in "Flags-in", where a flag is placed at each of the 284,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A member of the US Army places an American flags on a grave at Arlington National Cemetery on May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia in preparation for Memorial Day. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A soldier from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) holds a handful of flags during "Flags-in," where a flag is placed at each of the 284,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) take part in "Flags-in", where a flag is placed at each of the 284,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A soldier from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) takes part in "Flags-in", where a flag is placed at each of the 284,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Soldiers in the Old Guard walk to place flags at graves in Arlington National Cemetery during 'Flags In' in preparation for Memorial Day May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
The Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army General Mark Milley (L) and his wife Hollyanne (R) speak with family of a soldier at Arlington National Cemetery as former U.S. Navy corpsman Donna Russo of Boston rests upon the headstone of Jason Allen Lehto during the the "Flags-in" event at Arlington National Cemetery ahead of Memorial Day in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 25, 2017. Russo said she was with Lehto when he was killed in Iraq. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) salute as Taps is heard nearby during "Flags-in", where a flag is placed at each of the 284,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, ahead of Memorial Day, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A soldier from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) takes part in "Flags-in", where a flag is placed at each of the 284,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, ahead of Memorial Day in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A soldier from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) takes part in "Flags-in", where a flag is placed at each of the 284,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, ahead of Memorial Day, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Soldiers in the Old Guard arrive to place flags at graves in Arlington National Cemetery during 'Flags In' in preparation for Memorial Day May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A soldier from the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (Old Guard) takes part in "Flags-in", where a flag is placed at each of the 284,000 headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, ahead of Memorial Day, in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., May 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 25: Sgt. Iwona Kosmaczewska assists with the process of placing flags at the headstones of U.S. military personnel buried at Arlington National Cemetery in preparation for Memorial Day May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. 'Flags-In' has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948� (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Soldiers in the Old Guard walk over a puddle while placing flags at graves in Arlington National Cemetery during 'Flags In' in preparation for Memorial Day May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Soldiers in the Old Guard wait to place flags at graves in Arlington National Cemetery during 'Flags In' in preparation for Memorial Day May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 25: Sgt. Iwona Kosmaczewska (L) and Pvt. 2 Wesley Defee (R), members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, place flags at the headstones of U.S. military personnel buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. 'Flags-In' has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948� (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Soldiers in the Old Guard prepare to place flags at graves in Arlington National Cemetery during 'Flags In' in preparation for Memorial Day May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 25: Members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment place flags at the headstones of U.S. military personnel buried at Arlington National Cemetery, in preparation for Memorial Day May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. 'Flags-In' has become an annual ceremony since the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) was designated to be an Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948� (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
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Former Army Maj. Matthew Burden, a military blogger who often shares stories of the fallen, shared this:

"It is important to remember them, and it is just as important to enjoy yourself this weekend. To spend time with your family and friends," he told BI. "What better assurance to them that they did not die in vain? Enjoying your freedom and understanding it's value is the best way to honor the sacrifices of my friends. That's the way they'd want you to spend Memorial Day.

Remembering them, and being a good friend, father, and an American is the best way that I can honor their memory."

I wholeheartedly agree.

This article was originally published in 2014.

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