Today, my family is thankful for the ones that gave their lives for our freedom. We extend our thanks to all the veterans that have served and we remember in our prayers the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that are currently serving.
Memorial Day is tomorrow. In my opinion, Memorial Day is our nation’s most important holiday. I did not have the honor of serving my country in our armed forces, but that does not mean that I can’t support our troops now or appreciate what so many have done for all of us.
Memorial Day is not about a day off. It is not about BBQs. It isn’t about getting together with friends and family. It isn’t about the first official day of summer. As a matter of fact, it isn’t about us at all. Throughout the history of America, men and women have ventured into harms way because they believed our republic was worth fighting for. They wrote a check made payable to Uncle Sam. The amount was their life, and sadly, sometimes that check was cashed. This holiday is about them. And what we do on this day either honors or dishonors their memory.
Please, take time to remember. At 3PM local time on Monday, observe a moment of silence. This is called our National Moment of Remembrance. If you know someone who lost their life in service to our country, remember them. Visit their grave site if you can. Say a prayer.
If you have a flag pole, fly the flag. At dawn, the flag is raised all the way to the top of the pole, and then lowered to half-staff. At noon local time, raise the flag back to full staff.
Teach your children. Our children are our future, and if they are to preserve the Republic, they need to understand our traditions. Spend time with them. Include them in your Memorial Day observations.
Thank a veteran. Yes, Memorial Day is about those that have fallen in battle and yes, we have another holiday called Veteran’s Day, but do it anyway. For many veterans, Memorial Day is a time when they vividly remember their comrades and close friends. By thanking them, you tell them that you appreciate the sacrifice made by those they’ve lost.
Lastly, thank a current service member. Remember, we are currently fighting in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reality is the service member you thank this year could be one of the fallen remembered next year. We all pray this is not the case, but freedom isn’t free. Tell them you appreciate the sacrifices they are making.
That’s it. You don’t have to spend a lot of money. There is no stress over finding the perfect gift. This year, make Memorial Day your most important holiday.
I’m sure many of you will participate in a BBQ, maybe watch a car race or 2, and enjoy a long weekend with Monday off. Most of us will in some way, remember those who have served to protect our freedoms. But do you know the history of Memorial Day? As early as the 1860’s, we have records of people decorating the graves of soldiers who died on both sides of the civil war. But it wasn’t until 1967 that a federal law named Memorial Day as a national holiday. Long before 1967, citizens of this country knew we should honor our veterans, but it was the work of a veterans organization that started our tradition.
First called Decoration Day, towns all over America, north and south, placed flowers and other decorations on the graves of fallen soldiers. By 1868, General John Logan declared Memorial Day should be observed nationwide, every year. General Logan was the Commander In Chief of a Union Army Veteran’s Organization called the Grand Army of the Republic. In General Order No. 11, General Logan commanded the Grand Army of the Republic to observe Memorial Day on the 30th day of May. That date was chosen specifically becuase it was not the anniversary of a battle. Here is General Logan’s order.
HEADQUARTERS GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868
- The 30th day 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 church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from hishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.
- It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
- Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.
By order of
JOHN A. LOGAN,
In 1868, 183 cemeteries in 27 states held events. Just a year later, 336 events were held. In 1882, the name of Decoration Day was formally changed to Memorial Day in “memory” and ‘honor” of those who gave their lives fighting for a common cause, America.
This is just a little of the history of one of our nation’s greatest holidays. Tomorrow, SheepDog Theory will cover the appropriate way to display the Flag on Memorial Day, as well as make some suggestions for how to honor our fallen.