Originally known as Decoration Day until 1882, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of America’s war-fighters who died in the service of our nation. The origin of the day is uncertain, but it most likely started with Southern Ladies decorating the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers’ graves during the Civil War. Or it could have started with the random organization of groups to honor the dead in several locations around the nation on both sides of the War. The Civil War tapped the need of decent people to honor their side’s dead as well as their loved ones who had fallen for their cause.
The first official proclamation establishing the day was from General John Logan on 5 May, 1868 and was first observed on May 30 of that year, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The Northern states were the first to observe Memorial day on the last Monday of May; Southern States honored their dead on separate days until the end of World War I. After the Great War, Memorial Day changed from a day to honor the fallen warriors of the Civil War to one of remembrance of all Americans who died fighting for our nation.
The placing of American Flags on the graves began with the Boy Scouts at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in 1951. Later, the 3rd U.S. Infantry would place flags on the graves of the fallen at Arlington and maintain a constant vigilance to ensure the flags never falter. Nationally, American Flags will be raised and flown at half-mast until noon in remembrance and raised to full mast for the remainder of the day.
Traditional observance has diminished somewhat over the years; far too many Americans have become complacent about remembering what made us and kept us free. Many of the graves of the fallen are being ignored, and most people don’t know the meaning of the flag being flown at half-mast. Outside of many military communities, the fallen are forgotten until the war-fighters are needed to fend off another threat to our nation. Soon after, however, people forget our war dead once again.
Too many Americans take Memorial Day for granted as another day off. Like Christmas, Passover, and Easter, the true meaning may be forgotten because it is not being taught to our children by our generation.
For those who know and observe this day of remembrance, may God bless you and keep you close.
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