The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News Correspondent Andy Rooney.
It's hard to know how much time to spend remembering. Memories are more often sad than happy.
The word "memorial" itself has a sad sound to it. Those to whom we are close die, and we want to remember them. We die, and we want to be remembered, but no amount of longing can bring anyone back, so there is a limit to the value of grief.
Memorial Day was originally dedicated to the soldiers who died in the Civil War. It was called Decoration Day because people went to cemeteries and put flowers on graves. Some still do.
When I was very young in Albany, my father took me to the parade and most of the men marching were veterans of World War I. There were still a few Civil War veterans in their 80s and 90s who could make it up State Street hill.
We think of this war now in Iraq as terrible because every day we get the news that three or seven more Americans have been killed.
In the Civil War, 365,000 Northern soldiers were killed, and 133,000 soldiers from the South died.
In World War I, 116,000 American soldiers were killed. In World War II, 407,000 died, 54,000 died in Korea, 58,000 in Vietnam.
More than a million Americans have died in our wars, each one much loved by someone.
Twelve of my classmates died in World War II, but my memory of them comes at unexpected times - not on Memorial Day - and I would like to see the effort we now put into this one day redirected.
There are men in every country on earth - mostly men - who spend full time devising new ways for us to kill each other. In the United States alone, we spend seven times as much on war as on education.
There's something wrong there. On this Memorial Day, we should certainly honor those who have died at war, but we should dedicate this day, not so much to their memory, but to the search for a way to end the idiocy of the wars that killed them.
Written By Andy Rooney
Copyright 2004 CBS. All rights reserved.