Over the past week, here in NH we experienced a great deal of rainfall, and as the weekend rolled around, many were complaining about how their long holiday weekend was being ruined by such weather. These same people prominently shared numerous posts on social networks in recognition of Memorial Day. To me this is confusing in which I would like to share why.
During the spring, prior to the Civil War ending, Southern women took to decorating the graves of fallen soldiers, both of the Confederate as well as Union Soldiers, with beautiful spring flowers. Although they initially came to decorate the Confederate soldiers, they were saddened by the neglected graves of the Union men, who had also fallen. They made a conscious choice to take some of the flowers they brought, to honor the men on the Union side, by decorating their graves as well.
Three years after the American Civil War had ended, on May 5th,1868, “Decoration Day” was established as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of those who died to end slavery within the United States. It was also decided, by Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, that Decoration Day was to be observed on May 30th of each year.
Despite the controversy of where the first Decoration Day was first observed, it was decided by President Lyndon Johnson, 100 years later in 1966, that Waterloo, NY was the actual “birthplace” of Memorial Day. The first ceremony held to honor the local veterans, who had fought in the Civil War, was held on May 5th, 1866. In 1967, Decoration Day officially became named as Memorial Day.
Soon after World War I, the day expanded to honor those who died in all wars, acknowledging all services for all men and women who died in service for our country. America continued to honor them throughout the years, with all businesses being closed, grave sites groomed and decorated with flowers, parades as well as residents flying flags at half-staff.
I even remember as a young girl, attending the parades in the 60’s, receiving the poppy to wear, and small flag to wave as the parade marched past with Military service men and woman and local bands. I remember as a high school student in 1974 – 1978, as a flute player, of marching in a very warm marching uniform. We complained of the heat or the cold, and yet when we marched in town or other towns we were invited to participate, we marched with pride.
Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by congress, in 1971. Yet, at the same time, the observed day was changed to be on the last Monday in the month of May, with Monday also being the day that all other federal holidays were to be observed. Yet with this change, many other changes have taken place. And with these changes, I sit back and wonder, do we really appreciate the holiday for what it represents or do we utilize the holiday as just a long weekend?
Stores are opened year-round, and on a day of remembrance, the doors promptly open for their promotional sales at the same time parades are starting as well as when the memorial services are being held. The week prior we get the auto flyers of dealers offering deals and our weekend papers are filled with flyers of specialized sales that take place on this particular day as the doors open promptly at 9:00 am.
Has changing the day of observance, by creating a three-day weekend, changed the mind-set of the American people? Sure, we can post pictures on all the social media sites to thank soldiers as well as remember those who served, but the ones we are honoring are all those who have served and died in all wars. Are we rushing out of work on Thursday so that we can run off to our vacation spots for our own pleasure vs. the intended purpose of taking time on Monday to honor the fallen?
No, I am not saying that we should mourn throughout the day, as this day is also a day of celebration for the freedom that we sometimes take for granted. Spend time with family, enjoy your mini-vacation, but do not forget that the freedom we have, came at a cost of a soldiers’ life. And, as you drive past a cemetery, say a prayer for those who have fallen, as well as those who were left behind to carry-on.
Are we as a nation, taking a moment at 3:00 pm on Memorial Day, for a moment of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to our nation? “The Moment of Remembrance was established so that we, as a nation, can help to put the meaning of memorial back into Memorial Day.
Personally, I am wondering how many Americans would complain if the celebrated day was returned to the original 30th of each May, as they did for the last two days of our long weekend which was “ruined” by the cold and rainy weather. This year the 30th lands on a Fri, still providing a long weekend, but what if it landed on a Thursday requiring one to return to work the following day?
Have Americans become so self-serving that their wants are more important than those who suffered on our behalf, serving through the cold rain and snow, extreme heat of the desert, away from their families where all they have are a photograph and memories. Many served while their child entered this world without them being home to hold them. They will miss that child’s first cry, first step, first word, along with the many other firsts. In addition, there are dads and moms who have missed first dates, first dances, proms and weddings as well as the newly married who are now away from their spouse.
Although we all have challenges in life, my husband and I look back and realize that our fathers served during peaceful times, which means they were home to discipline, love and be around for us. We also have not had any family member fall during their time of service. This is not the case of many of the children who today have lost their mom or dad.
Today, my blog gives honor to all the men and women who have served the United States of American. In addition, I give thanks to the families who are picking up the pieces of broken hearts and broken lives. God bless each of you as God continues to carry you through, bringing you closure and peace. Although my heart hurts for you, may you stand proud knowing that the one(s) you have lost, are why I and many others, are thankful to be called an American.
God Bless America. May she stand strong and proud.