My Dad was born on Decoration Day, Wednesday, May 30, 1917. Decoration Day was the day set aside for the laying of flowers onto the graves of soldiers who died in the line of duty, specifically the Civil War or the War Between The States, the title determined if you were from the North or the South. Decoration Day was the forerunner to what we know today as Memorial Day which is now celebrated on the last Monday of May, which could be May 30 if May 1 falls on a Sunday. Next year, Memorial day will be on Monday, May 30; my Dad would have been 99 years old.
From the US Department of Veteran Affairs comes this historical note about the establishment of Decoration Day: Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.
Today, we know this remembrance as Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday of May instead of always on May 30. Unfortunately the theme of the day for most Americans focuses more on the beginning of summer vacation and a holiday than on the honoring of the brave service men and women who gave their lives while serving our great nation in all wars fought by the United States.
On a sign at a small grocery/gas station reads “Happy Memorial Day.” What’s so “happy” about it? It’s a day of mourning; it’s a day of respect; it’s a day to say thank you to those who served and lost their life doing it. It’s a day to decorate their graves with flowers and flags and lots of praise. It’s not about vacations, or grilling hot dogs, or fireworks. It’s Decoration Day. Maybe the day should be renamed to give it and those who lost their lives the respect deserved.
Dictionary.com word of the day
eternize (verb) [ih-tur-nahyz] to make eternal; perpetuate