More than any other year, I feel that the purpose of Memorial Day is being hijacked by the need to party and the media’s need to rewrite history and tradition.
The year 1868 was the first time that Decoration Day was widely observed in the United States … a day set aside to decorate the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War. In 1882, the name “Memorial Day” began to be used to honor all US soldiers who died in service to their country. The new name became more common following WWI, but not official until 1967.
Despite the name change, there are still senior citizens in the US who refer to the day as Decoration Day (as did my parents). Until 1971, Memorial Day was always observed on May 30th, but then congress declared it a federal holiday to be observed the last Monday in May so as to create a “three-day weekend”.
Today – sadly – many Americans think of Memorial Day as the kick-off to summer, and cannot tell you what the purpose of the day really is. Adding to the confusion is the constant reminders from the media for us to “thank a Veteran on this Memorial Day”. When I meet any Veteran, I always thank them for their service to our country, but Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day are not the same. Memorial Day honors the fallen. Veteran’s Day – always November 11th – honors all who have served in our military, living and dead.
You can go into any cemetery in the United States and find grave markers of soldiers, many of which may get no attention on Memorial Day (or any other day for that matter). This is an opportune time to teach our children about our great military and to place a flag and a flower on a grave of a fallen soldier.
You can find more information about Decoration Day/Memorial Day at the History Channel.
Let us never forget …