The Meaning of Memorial Day (revisited)



This commentary was originally published on May 24, 2013 in honor of Memorial Day, and to give it its proper due for all of us to remember why we celebrate it. You can find this commentary and others in my personal blogsite, Frank McHale’s Viewpoints, Frankmchalesviews.blogspot.com. Your comments are certainly always welcome. Thank you and enjoy! -FM


Friday, May 24, 2013

The Meaning of Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day weekend and many of us will be at BBQs, at the beach, in the mountains or visiting with friends and relatives. It is the “unofficial” start of summer, where leisure time is treasured and the warmer weather makes us feel so alive. As Americans, we live mostly in temperate climates, although Alaskans will say “where?”, Floridians will have something to say about the humidity, and Hawaiians will say they are in weather paradise.

However, it seems we have lost some of the meaning of Memorial Day. Sure, we know it is one of our federal holidays, like Labor Day, Columbus Day and Presidents’ Day. But do we understand the history and significance of this special day?

Initially, it was created after the American Civil War to honor those soldiers who died, whether Union or Confederate, as they were all Americans. The holiday was called Decoration Day, because it was felt, that friends and families would go to the gravesites of the deceased and adorn the grave with flowers, plants, ribbons or other appropriate decoration. By the early 20th century, the holiday evolved not only to honor Civil War dead, but any member of the Armed Forces who died in battle. The name was changed, as well, to Memorial Day and moved to May 31 throughout the country in order to be consistent.

This holiday’s purpose should not be confused with Veterans Day, initially called Armistice Day to celebrate the end of WWI, which honors all veterans, living and now deceased. These honorees did not have to die in battle to be so honored, only that they served.

In 1970, Memorial Day was moved to the last Monday in May. This was done so that we would have several three-day weekends to make our work weeks somewhat more

Days Of Thunder

Days Of Thunder (Photo credit: Glyn Lowe Photoworks.)

efficient for business. Other holidays which fall on Mondays for this purpose are MLK Day, Presidents’ Day, Labor Day and Columbus Day.

The remaining holidays stayed on their calendar date. These are New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Initially, Veterans Day was moved to the last Monday in October, but veterans’ groups complained, so the Congress moved the holiday back toNovember 11th.

So, while you are in your backyard, the park or other site enjoying your Memorial Day party, take a moment to close your eyes, say a prayer, and thank all the deceased military who gave their lives protecting our freedom, preserving our liberty and allowing us to live in the most democratic country the world has ever seen.

It is the least we can do as Americans. Our Founding Fathers would expect as much.






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