Today is a day that most people shop sales, hold barbecues, and party. But for some of us Memorial Day memories aren’t as lighthearted. I want to take the time to remind everyone what Memorial Day should really be about.
Some gave all.
Memorial Day began in the years after the Civil War in which more men died than any other war in our nation’s history. The day was originally called Decoration Day. By the late 1860’s towns had begun holding events to decorate the graves of the fallen and to say prayers.
On May 5, 1868, 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.
General Logan chose the date because no particular battle had been fought on it. General James Garfield, at Arlington Cemetery, made a speech and over 20,000 graves were decorated by more than 5,000 people.
Although it didn’t become an official federal holiday until 1971 I remember my parents “celebrating” Decoration Day in the years before Memorial Day. For my family it is a very different holiday than for many. You see, my oldest brother was a Marine and was killed in action.
My parent’s Memorial Day memories centered around the loss of their firstborn child. Thomas was only 19 when he died. The family received a folded American flag, his Purple Heart and became a Gold Star family. Before Thomas’ death we’d been a 3 Blue Star family.
Neither of my parents ever got over the loss of Thomas. They carried on, enjoyed the rest of their family, and their lives but there was always a hole.
As you enjoy your shopping, barbecues, and parties today, please remember the incredibly courageous men and women of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Marines who gave their lives in service to all of us.
At 3:00 p.m. EDT there is a national moment of remembrance. Please make this part of your Memorial Day Memories.