Thoughts on Memorial Day
This morning I got an e-mail that began, “Memorial Day weekend ushers in the summer season when temperatures rise, days lengthen, kiddos play, coworkers vacate, offices quiet, and pools open.” All true, but there is so much more to this important day.
Observed on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day is an American holiday that honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War.
At a Memorial Day ceremony in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, future president and Union Army General James A. Garfield said, “For love of country they accepted death.”
Following two world wars in the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all service members who died while serving our country. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in local parades.
Years ago, people would gather with family members (some who would travel long distances) on the Memorial Day and place flowers on graves of our fallen heroes. It was common to hold a religious service with “dinner on the ground,” the traditional term for a potluck meal. People would spread the dishes out on sheets or tablecloths on the grass.
On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971.
Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving this great nation, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.
Poet Thomas Campbell wrote, “The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree.” At Interstate Batteries, we are thankful for the many veterans who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961