Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day

It seems to me, that over the years, we have lost the true meaning of many holidays. Christmas has become so commercialized that it's true meaning is hardly recognizable. I doubt if many people know to whom we are to truly give thanks for our blessings on Thanksgiving Day. Then there is Memorial Day. Many folks see this as the official start of the summer vacation season. Others see it as the week-end of the Indy 500. But this holiday had a much more somber beginning. For whatever reason, I felt compelled to do a little search and share some of the original purposes behind this holiday. I will preface my findings by saying that it started as an observance of those military personnel who gave their lives in service to their country. The following little history lesson is a series of excerpts from a Yahoo search I did.

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May (observed in 2008 on May 26). It was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action. One of the longest standing traditions is the running of the Indianapolis 500, which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911. It is also traditionally viewed as the beginning of summer by many, for many schools are dismissed around Memorial Day.

Memorial Day formerly occurred on May 30, and some, such as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW), advocate returning to this fixed date, although the significance of the date is tenuous. The VFW stated in a 2002 Memorial Day Address, "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed a lot to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."[1]

Following the end of the Civil War, many communities set aside a day to mark the end of the war or as a memorial to those who had died. Some of the places creating an early memorial day include Charleston, South Carolina; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; Carbondale, Illinois; Columbus, Mississippi; many communities in Vermont; and some two dozen other cities and towns. These observances eventually coalesced around Decoration Day, honoring the Union dead, and the several Confederate Memorial Days.
According to Professor David Blight of the Yale University History Department, the first memorial day was observed in 1865 by liberated slaves at the historic race track in Charleston. The site was a former Confederate prison camp as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who had died while captive. A parade with thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers was followed by patriotic singing and a picnic.
The official birthplace of Memorial Day is Waterloo, New York. The village was credited with being the birthplace because it observed the day on May 5, 1866, and each year thereafter, and because it is likely that the friendship of General John Murray, a distinguished citizen of Waterloo, and General John A. Logan, who led the call for the day to be observed each year and helped spread the event nationwide, was a key factor in its growth.

At some point we expanded the observance of Memorial Day to remember anyone who we wish to honor in some small way, be they friends, family, etc. We remember and honor anyone who had enough of an impact on our lives to have left an impression on us. At a time when we find ourselves as a nation involved in a war on terrorism and the Islamic extremist philosophy that clings to this method of spreading it's poisonous venom around the world, I thought it appropriate to return to the roots of Memorial Day. Pause, give thanks not only to those who have given their lives to the service of this country throughout history, but remember those who continue to willingly place themselves in harms way to preserve and protect the quality of life that we so dearly enjoy. Freedom is not free indeed.


Bond said...

Nicely said...and Don't forget 3:00pm Monday the National Moment Of Remembrance!

Sandee (Comedy +) said...

I haven't forgotten. A big thank you to all those that have served, those that are serving and the ones that will serve later. My God keep them safe. Happy Memorial Day. :)

Travis said...

I think we all have a responsibility to remember those who paid the price for the freedoms we enjoy. I also think it's important to exercise those freedoms by celebrating the beginning of summer with cookouts and family.

Rhonda said...

good post.
thank you for this...

DoubleDeckerBusGuy said...

Well said... and as we all say on November 11th... Lest We Forget...

Eaton Bennett said...

Hi, I'm from Australia and we have a similar day to your Memorial Day,
Anzac Day on the 25th April. It is specifically for remembering the fallen from the WW1, WW2, Vietnam and now of course includes Irag and Timor. Like you, I find it pitiful that we turn our days of rememberance into convenient days off and material events. Great blog!