Memorial Day 2016
Today is Memorial Day 2016. Old men send young me off to war. Young men kill other young men in battle. Some young men survive the wars and the battles and return home to their families and lead productive lives. Some such young men, rarely if ever speak of what they did or saw. Some young men return physically scared and maimed for the rest of their lives. Some young men return physically unscathed, but psychologically scared to the point of tragedy.
Some young men have only their bodies returned. Some young men have their bodies interred on foreign battlefields, never to return.
It is these last two groups of young men that our country honors on Memorial Day.
Why we go to war can be and has been debated by men smarter and more insightful than I.
“I know war as few other men……..know it, and nothing to me is more revolting. I have long advocated its complete abolition, as its very destructiveness on both friend and foe has rendered it useless as a method of settling international disputes.” – General Douglas MacArthur
My remembrances of war are imprinted and informed by World War II. Born 37 days before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor; I remember the VE Day and VJ Day parades. I remember the soldiers returning at the old train station in my home town. I remember my brothers (actually half-brothers, and obviously much older than I) returning from war and how I looked up to them with fascination and awe. I remember the newsreels showing the progress of the war in our local theater. American soldiers were my earliest heroes.
As ill-advised and ill-timed as our countries involvement in military conflict since the end of World War II may well be, we have never attacked another country to conquer, capture or expand territory. All we have ever requested is sufficient ground to bury our dead.
Regardless of the rightness or wrongness of the conflict, we have sent young men to their death to protect and preserve our way of life. It is only fitting they be honored for their sacrifice! So on this day, we pause to remember and revere these honored dead. Lives cut short, so that we can continue to enjoy the freedoms that sadly too many of us take for granted.
Memorial Day – A History
Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, at least, it marks the beginning of summer.
On May 5, 1868, 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.
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. Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Many Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor their dead on separate days until after World War I.
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. 1
1 – http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history