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
It is far too often that mainstream America forgets the true meaning of the holiday they are celebrating. Christmas is about getting presents, President’s day is about old dead dudes and in certain states Cinco de Mayo actually gets more attention than the 4th of July. It’s sad but true. Memorial Day has not escaped the dangers of being forgotten either.
Memorial Day has a rich tradition and gains its roots from one or more previous remembrances. There are at least two-dozen different cities and towns that claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. In May 1966, President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo New York the birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo sounds as good as any, but in truth I do not believe anyone knows for sure.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. However, those residing south of the Mason-Dixon would certainly disagree with this origin, or at least they did until World War I.
In the beginning, Memorial Day was only meant to honor those who died fighting the Civil War and the South took exception to the notion of honoring a Yankee General’s holiday. Instead, they chose three separate days to honor their fallen Rebel heroes. It took another great sacrifice of America’s finest young men to bring the two sides together, World War I. After the War to End All Wars, Memorial Day was changed to honor all those who died fighting in any war.
I remembered the first time I moved to the South. I quickly learned the following phrase, “Lee surrendered; the South didn’t.” Perhaps, but in addition to Memorial Day, several southern states still hold their own remembrance days to honor the Confederate war dead: Texas – January 19, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi – April 26, South Carolina – May 10, and Louisiana and Tennessee – June 3 (Jefferson Davis’ birthday).
No matter the region of your birth or preference for the Blue or the Gray, Monday will be a day to remember all fallen heroes; those who gave all so that we may enjoy our freedom. So, before you burn the meat on the grill, watch the racers at the Brickyard or perform your requisite 16-ounce curls, be sure to remember who you are celebrating and give thanks to those who gave all…
What are you doing to honor those who gave all? Tell us in the comment section.
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