Memorial Day is a day dedicated to remembrance that began at the end of the Civil War. Many communities set aside a day to mark the end of the war or as a memorial to those who had died. Some of the early cities creating a memorial day included Charleston, South Carolina; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; Richmond, Virginia; Carbondale, Illinois; Columbus, Mississippi; many communities in Vermont, and some two dozen other cities and towns.
Although the Civil War had ended, the hostilities that existed carried over into how to celebrate the war dead. The North called their remembrance “Decoration Day”, and the South called their celebration “Confederate Memorial Day.” After several years of disagreement, the designation of “Memorial Day” was used in 1882; however, the official name designation did not occur until 1967 – just 40 years ago this year. A year later, in 1968, Congress passed the “Uniform Holidays Bill, which established a three-day weekend for four holidays – Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Columbus Day, and Presidents’ Day. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply at the state level, all fifty states adopted the measure within a few years, although Veterans Day was eventually changed back to its traditional date of November 11th of each year.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, September 13, 2006
Arlington National Cemetary, September 13, 2006
The Three Soldiers – Vietnam Memorial, September 13, 2006
This year, take time out of your schedules to attend a parade, go to a cemetary, or thank a surviving veteran for his or her serivce to our country. Fort Wayne is a city of 250,000 citizens, yet the Memorial Day parade draws perhaps a thousand. The excuses are always there – plans to go to the lake, plans to have a get together, the weather isn’t nice. Dozens of excuses which are absolutely not acceptable.
Those who died in the service of our country had plans too – they wanted to get married, to raise a family, to go to college. But their plans and dreams will never be fulfilled because they gave the ultimate sacrifice – their lives. And the excuse of the weather – even worse. Did our soldiers have the option of a clean, warm, and dry foxhole in front of a cozy fire during World War I and World War II? Did they have the option of air conditioning in the steamy, humid jungles of Vietnam or the dry, hot deserts of the Middle East?
Ask yourself what excuse you have that could be more important than honoring our veterans, past and present, living and dead.