MEMORIAL DAY 2015
Many of you spent this past weekend socializing with your friends and families. Perhaps you spent much of this time outdoors grilling or swimming, or even on a vacation you’ve had planned. It’s easy for us to forget what this holiday weekend is about when we’re having fun.
No, this is not another guilt-trip article meant to shame anyone for not “observing” correctly. The fact that we are enjoying and appreciating our lives is at least a small part of why our nation's servicemen and women fight, for our freedom to do so. That being said, these individuals deserve reverence for the sacrifices they make. While this author cannot even begin to fathom that level of courage, the absolute least we can do as a nation is understand this day’s origins. Then, we can begin to understand its importance.
Originally known as Decoration Day, it was first recognized following the turmoil of the Civil War. With both the sides having lost brothers and sons, and with the nation repairing its deep wounds, the idea came about to honor those who gave their lives. Tributes had already sprung up all around America, often in the Spring, when fresh flowers could decorate the graves of these fallen soldiers.
In early May of 1868, General John A. Logan, who served in the Union army (and would later become a U.S. Representative and Senator), called for a nationwide day of remembrance. The date that was originally chosen, May 30th, was picked for the simple fact that it didn’t conflict with the anniversary of any battle. He stated:
“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”James Garfield (future President of the United States) gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery that year, honoring the 20,000 or so that were buried there.
Memorial Day didn’t become official until over 100 years later. Following World War II, the day became much more recognized, and then in 1968 officially became a federal holiday and was known as Memorial Day. It would occur on the last Monday of May.
Well over 1.5 million men and women have paid the ultimate sacrifice for us. In return, we observe this day in multiple ways, such as with the U.S. flag. From USMemorialDay.org:
“In traditional observance, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day. The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.”Many people have their own individual remembrances as well, such as wearing red poppies and visiting graves and war memorials. At 3pm local time, Americans informally observe a moment of silence out of respect.
This simple act of silence speaks volumes. It is a way to show our gratitude and let our military personnel know that they will never be forgotten.
Thank you, brave Americans.