Memorial Day is for honoring the fallen

Published 1:37 pm Monday, May 28, 2018

Americans have many patriotic holidays — Flag Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, birthdays for presidents and noted leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., but perhaps no other holiday is looked at with the reverence that accompanies Memorial Day. And rightfully so.
First celebrated to honor Union soldiers who died fighting in the Civil War, Decoration Day was changed to Memorial Day after World War II to honor all those who died serving in the U.S. military. American lives have been lost in the American Revolution, The Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, the Iraq War and War on Terror, among others.
We have Gen. John A. Logan (1826-1886), an Illinois politician and Civil War military leader, to thank for Memorial Day. He basically invented the nationwide observance now known as Memorial Day.
That’s not what they called it at first, but it’s the reason that many people have a three-day holiday weekend coming up.
It was 150 years ago this month that Gen. Logan issued his famous General Order No. 11 to GAR posts across the country.
Logan was aware of scattered commemorations to honor deceased soldiers, sailors and Marines whose graves filled cemeteries across the country.
His order to Grand Army of the Republic posts across the land effectively “nationalized” the celebration of Decoration Day, now Memorial Day.
The first Decoration Day under Logan’s order was May 30, 1868.
In all, 1.3 million members of the armed services have lost their lives in conflict.
Logan chose that day in late May because, by then, flowers across the land would be in full bloom. A ready supply of “the choices flowers of springtime,” therefore, would be available for mourners to decorate the graves of loved ones who died in the Civil War.
Logan also called for the U.S. flag to be raised above the graves, and for those who attended to renew their pledges to aid the widows and orphans of the honored dead.
Memorial Day, which is the final Monday in May each year, is for remembering those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and given their lives in the service of our country.
While the name “Memorial Day” was first used in 1882, it did not become the common name for the holiday until after World War II. Memorial Day became the official name of the holiday by federal law in 1967, and the Uniform Monday Holiday Act the following year moved the holiday from May 30 to the final Monday in May.
Many Americans will have the day off work on Monday, which will mean time with family and friends and a chance to engage in recreational activities, like cooking out or traveling somewhere. Others will celebrate Memorial Day as the unofficial kickoff of summer.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t forget what Monday is about.
This day, unlike any other, brings a solemn reminder of the cost of freedom. It’s a price paid with lives of some of our best and brightest throughout time.
They’re the reason we have the freedom we do as Americans.

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