Memorial Day History

I sincerely apologize for the technical difficulties that delayed the posting of this blog article; it was originally scheduled for this past Saturday morning;                                             Nancy Trebilcock, BSN, RN, CDE 

For many, Memorial Day weekend signals the beginning of summer activities and the opening of swimming pools. For some of us, though, Memorial Day is not a recreational activity; it is a time of reflection, sadness, pride, prayer and honor. Do you know the origins of this U.S. Federal holiday?

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Memorial Day is a holiday wherein the men and women, who died while serving in the Unites States Armed Forces, are honored and remembered. This holiday, celebrated annually on the final Monday of May, was formerly known as Decoration Day and originated during the Civil War. In Columbus, Miss., on April 25, 1866, a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. The graves of Union soldiers nearby were barren and neglected because they were considered “the enemy”. Disturbed at the site of bare graves, these women placed some of their flowers on those graves as well. Small local ceremonies took place in various places. For “our” local connection, a cemetery stone in Carbondale, Ill, carries the statement that their first Decoration Day ceremony took place on April 29, 1866. After the Civil war ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union Veterans, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), established Decoration Day as a time for the entire nation to decorate the graves of war dead with flowers. Carbondale was the wartime home of Major General John A. Logan, who declared that the holiday should be observed on May30th, because of the belief that flowers would be in plentiful bloom all over the country: “use the choicest flowers of springtime; we should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. Let no neglect or ravages of time testify, to the present or to the coming generations, that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic”. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery and by the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies, honoring the Civil War veterans, were held on May 30th, throughout the nation. It was not until after World War I that the day was expanded to include honoring those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an Act of Congress and placed on the last Monday in May. In December 2000, Congress established the National Moment of Remembrance Act which encourages all Americans to pause, wherever they are, at 3pm local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to our Nation.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the 50th anniversary of Vietnam. Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day. Memorial Day honors those who died while serving in the military; Veterans Day honors the service of all U.S. military veterans. No matter what your political or religious preferences, please remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice, overseas or on the home front, who earned the freedoms in this great Country that many of us take for granted.

For Veterans reference: Benefits = 1-800-827-1000; Health Care = 1-877-222-8387;
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1.

Sources: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; http://www.va.org; http://www.wikipedia.org

 

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