Memorial Day isn’t just about honoring veterans, its honoring those who lost their lives. Veterans had the fortune of coming home. For us, that’s a reminder of when we come home we still have a responsibility to serve. It’s a continuation of service that honors our country and those who fell defending it. Pete Hegseth
Memorial Day is upon us again. I brace myself for those who confuse Memorial Day with Veteran’s Day and prepare to educate them. I don’t think that President Abraham Lincoln intended it to be a day for celebrating the start of summer, but many seem to think so.
Memorial Day for me is a day to honor a string of brothers who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of a nation that has forgotten, the sacrifices of the men led by the founders to give us a once great nation.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Over two dozen cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day.
Regardless of the exact date or location of its origins, one thing is clear – Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. “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.
On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war).
It is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May with Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971. This helped ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays, though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19th in Texas; April 26th in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10th in South Carolina; and June 3rd (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.
In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem: We cherish too, the Poppy red, That grows on fields where valor led, It seems to signal to the skies, That blood of heroes never dies.
Moina Michael then conceived an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms. Michael. When she returned to France she made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children’s League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help.
Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their “Buddy” Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms. Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.
The “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.” I will honor that moment.
So there we have a brief history of the day we honor our war dead. How you do it is up to you. Be it at the beach or at the BBQ, please take a moment to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. How many men and women made that sacrifice in battle over the ages;
American Revolution (1775-1783) Battle Deaths 4,435
War of 1812 (1812-1815) Battle Deaths 2,260
Indian Wars (approx. 1817-1898) Battle Deaths (VA estimate) 1,000
Mexican War (1846-1848) Battle Deaths 1,733
Civil War (1861-1865)
Battle Deaths (Union) 140,414
Battle Deaths (Confederate) 74,524
Spanish-American War (1898-1902) Battle Deaths 385
World War I (1917-1918) Battle Deaths 53,402
World War II (1941 –1945) Battle Deaths 291,557
Korean War (1950-1953) Battle Deaths 33,739
Vietnam War (1964-1975)47,434
Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991) Battle Deaths148
America’s Wars Total (1775-1991) Military Service during Wartime 41,892,128 Battle Deaths 651,031
The Global War on Terror values are still not in, but hopefully it will end one day soon. I for one am not going to hold my breath until that happens.
So while you are at it, go out and buy a book. It should contain the Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, and a copy of the constitution and the Bill of Rights. Look it over really well, hey, do yourself a favor and read the book. Find out what these men were supposedly defending and you will find opinions on how the constitution was formed and what the Founding Fathers were thinking and why they had those thoughts. One of the things I can promise you is that you will become more educated. Times change, the reasons for sacrifice do not.
There will be those in the future who will make sacrifices, I just hope the reasons for those sacrifices aren’t for the chaotic ignorance that we face today. People bled and died so that every one of us can pursue happiness. That happiness depends on your expectations of what you want to get out of life. Whatever you want to get out of life, you need to work for and not wait for someone to give it to you. No one went out and died so you can have a free ride, they died to give you the opportunity to seek out a better life.
Tyranny still exists in the world today, men will continue to seek a better life by giving up their time and possibly their existence to keep those tyrants at bay. Honor the fallen this Memorial Day weekend, they are the ones who made much of what we have today possible. Their sacrifice should never be forgotten.
My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. John F. Kennedy