Memorial Day. A day of parades, barbecues, no work and the official start to summer, right? Wrong!
On May 5, 1862, 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 date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.
For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
I was born in 1971. I am not from what you would call a “military family”. I am too young to be overly affected by what happened in Vietnam. The Reagan years of military action were nothing that hit home. It was always in countries far, far away. My childhood was spent not fully appreciating what Memorial Day stood for. Once Desert Storm happened in the early 90’s and some of my classmates were involved, it was then I started taking notice of the day.
Today, after 9/11, Iran and North Korea, there is no reason that any of us should not take a moment and say a prayer for those who served, both those who served and those that gave it all, and their families who are just as courageous to watch their loved ones march into battle not knowing if they will be in their arms again.
Without those individuals, we would not get to barbecue, play cornhole, enjoy a few adult beverages in the company of friends and family, or bitch about how our Government is screwing us. All of those freedoms…. all thanks to our military men and women over the 236 year history of this great country.
To all of my family and friends who have served, I salute you. I couldn’t do what you did.
Thank you to ALL for your service and sacrifice!