“What happened on Memorial Day?” will be a common question on Tuesday, May 26, 2015.
For many Americans, this will be the weekend that is considered the beginning of summer. Families and friends will be heading to the beach for sun and fun. Neighborhoods will be filled with the aromas of charcoal grills, hamburgers and hotdogs. Businesses will be offering Memorial Day sales, drawing many through their doors to celebrate the day.
Is this really what Memorial Day represents? Is this what Memorial Day has become?
We first need to know from where and when Memorial Day originated. Memorial Day as we know it today actually began as Decoration Day. Decoration Day was initiated by General John Logan on May 5, 1868 by his General Order #11. This order proclaimed May 30th, as a day to honor our fallen brothers in the defense of their country. Their graves were to be decorated with flowers. People all across the nation, in big cities and small, closed their businesses and decorated the soldiers’ graves in honor of their service.
Following WWI, Memorial Day was expanded to honor all those who had fallen during all wars, in the defense of their country. In 1971 Memorial Day was declared a National Holiday by Congress and signed into law by the president. This is when the last Monday in May was declared Memorial Day, and we as Americans gained a 3-day weekend.
Living in Georgia, it is interesting that two cities near where I live, Macon, Georgia and Columbus, Georgia, both claim to be where Memorial Day began in 1868. Many cities in both the North and South hold claims to the establishment of Memorial Day. President Lyndon Johnson, along with Congress in 1966 declared Waterloo, New York as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
In 2000, Congress established the National Moment of Remembrance Act, which encourages all Americans to “give back to their country”. The Act encourages all Americans, wherever they are on Memorial Day at 3 pm local time, to stop for a minute of silence in recognition and honor of those that have served their country.
Knowing what Memorial Day represents hopefully will change our focus and our behavior regarding Memorial Day. We must remember our history to know what it means to be an American. It is necessary to know from where we came, to know where we are, and where we are going.
In closing, how will you answer the question on Tuesday morning following Memorial Day,” What did you do this weekend?”
See you on the “Open Road”