Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Memorial Day

Originally, Memorial Day was declared a day to honor war veterans who bravely fought in the Civil War. After World War I, the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday. The holiday was also placed on the last Monday in May, as were most other federal holidays.

The observance of Memorial Day likely had many origins. Many towns planned or had spontaneous gatherings of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's. Stories exist of different localities in the US creating a "Day of Remembrance" and honoring veterans. There is one story of a springtime tribute that first occurred in Columbus, Miss., on April 25, 1866. "A group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well." [US Department of Veteran Affairs]

Memorial Day is not about the division of the North and the South; it is not about being for or against a particular war. Memorial Day is about reconciliation and honoring those who died serving our country.

Traditional observances of Memorial day have diminished over the years. Many Americans have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. The graves of the fallen are often ignored or neglected. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

As Memorial Day 2008 approaches, let us remember all those brave soldiers who have given their all for our country.

Thanks to the US Army Band for this moment of reflection.

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