For many Memorial Day has become simply a time to cook out with friends and family and enjoy a Federal holiday… its true meaning or history has become misplaced in the confusion of these early days of the 21st Century. I fear it could even be lost.
Some trace Memorial Day’s history as far back as World War I, many more confuse it with Veteran’s Day.
The truth is Memorial Day is held to honor those who have died while serving in our armed forces. I fear this too shall come under attack soon because the history of Memorial Days goes further back that World War I.
Originally, it was known as Decoration Day and started shortly after the Civil War. Interestingly it was a custom that was performed for soldiers on both sides of that conflict. Originally, it was a day to visit cemeteries and memorials, watch a parade or quietly remember family members that gave their lives in defense of our country. It did not become an official federal holiday 1971.
Today, it is for many… simply the unofficial start of summer. How sad.
A national moment of remembrance supposedly occurs at 3:00 p.m. local time across the country. While it is not clear where or how or when exactly this tradition originated; the federal government decided that Waterloo, New York should be honored as the official birthplace of Memorial day.
They first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866, hosting an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. Two years later, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month.
“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,” he proclaimed.
The Civil War ended in the spring of 1865 and claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. Before the end of that decade, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers, flags and poems.
Today, we struggle with “Revisionist History” and the process has every opportunity not to revise history but destroy it.
History, by its very definition is simply “that which happened, how it happened, when it happened and why it happened.” If you change any or all items in that list… it is not history any longer.
As New Orleans and other cities, removed statues that have been in place for decades… in my never to be humble opinion… A) they fail to honor those that sacrificed so much during the times of turmoil and B) they fail to honor their duty to tell the truth for future generations.
When my dear friend, Susan Drews, asked me to jot down some thoughts, I remembered something President Regain said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
How can we have freedom without the truth of our own history? I don’t believe we can. So, enjoy your celebration, cook out with the family, enjoy a federal holiday… this generation may be the last to understand what Memorial Day is even about. God bless America.
CMSgt, USAFR (Ret)