Shortly after the Civil War, what is now known a Memorial Day began as Decoration Day. The reason for that name is because it was a day on which Americans, both North and South, would decorate the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War.
Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, who lead a group for Northen Civil War veterans, declared in 1868 that Decoration Day would be observed annually on May 30. The date was chosen only for the reason that it didn’t coincide with any battles fought. It was a day for the North and South to honor their fallen and decorate their graves. After World War I, the holiday was broadened to include service members who died in all of the country’s wars, not just the Civil War.
Multiple cities claim to be the birthplace of this holiday, but President Lyndon Johnson formally gave the honor to Waterloo, N.Y. in 1966. Up until 1971, Memorial Day was observed on May 30th, 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 to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The same law also declared Memorial Day as a federal holiday and created a day for everyone to take time to reflect and honor the fallen. That did not go into effect until 1971.
Most people look at the Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial start of summer, mattress and furniture sales, or a day for cooking out. I know most of the people that read SSD will understand the real meaning. This is a day to remember the fallen service men and women of the military who have gone before us. Like most holidays in the U.S., it has been turned into just a weekend for sales and people to try and make money. But please take the time to think about the fallen and their families who have, as President Lincoln said, “Laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.” We truly are lucky to live in the greatest country in the world, where “the pursuit of happiness” is a guaranteed right. You are never asked to do anything for it other than maybe do jury duty. But some people chose to serve for whatever reason and some died because they chose to serve.
There are a couple small things you can do. One is, if you fly an American flag, lower it to half staff until noon. Then at noon raise it all the way up until sunset. Second, in the year 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance was passed by Congress that says at 3pm local time, take a moment in your own way to remember the fallen.
Memorial Day is not Veterans Day. I have heard so many people say, “oh, this weekend, we should really thank a veteran”. This isn’t for us; it is for the people who never came home and for their families.
Lastly, I wanted to say something about what to say to someone else on Memorial Day as a greeting. Please do not say “Happy Memorial Day”. This is a little thing, but it’s like saying happy funeral day. So, if you feel like “Happy Memorial Day” isn’t appropriate, try saying, “I hope you have a nice/good Memorial Day”. Never forget that, for some people, every day is Memorial Day.
Long Live the Brotherhood