Amy Byers

Memorial Day History

Veterans Day

Here in America, we proudly celebrate our fallen heroes at the end of May. The last Monday in May to be exact. It wasn’t always like that. Our nation was almost 100 years old before we started to recognize our deceased veterans.

Often Memorial Day (in many instances called Decoration Day) is said to have been started in 1866.

Lyndon B. Johnson declared in 1966 that Waterloo, New York was the birthplace of Memorial Day when in 1866 the townspeople honored local veterans who fought in the Civil War. On that day, businesses closed and flags were flown at half-staff. But in one year earlier in April of 1865 in Charleston South Carolina, it’s known that former slaves had a celebration for Union soldiers that had perished there. The Confederate Army had taken an old racetrack and turned it into a war prison. 250 of the soldiers that had died there were buried in a mass grave. These former slaves, grateful for the Union sacrifices dug up the bodies and interred the men in individual graves. They built a fence and erected an archway that read “Martyrs of the Race Course”. One month later, locals marched that same track carrying armfuls of roses as a children’s choir sang The Star Spangled Banner.

Another town that claims that they (along with many others) were the first was Carbondale, Illinois. There the hometown of the Union’s General Logan, ordered his post to decorate graves in 1868 with the ‘finest flowers of springtime’ and said; “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond memories. Let no neglect, no 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.”

To ensure that Memorial Day doesn’t turn into a BBQ holiday and the beginning of summer, in 2000 Congress passed, and President Clinton signed into law “the National Moment of Remembrance Act” which encourages all Americans to have a minute of silence at 3:00 pm local time to remember and honor those that have died in service to the nation. The founder of the Act, Carmella La Spada said “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.

So, on Monday, May 30th (the original date for Memorial Day) at 3:00 pm. Stop what you’re doing. Take a moment to remember. Remember all the men and women who have given the ultimate sacrifice of their lives for you. Mothers have lost their children. Children have lost their parents. Women have lost their husbands and husbands have lost their wives. All for us and our country.

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