Monday is Memorial Day. Pragmatically, this translates into a three day weekend, a four day work week, and the onset of trips to the beach. But where did it come from? I know it is a day of gravitas to honor and remember those who have died fighting for their country, but I had no clue as to its genesis.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, during the Civil War, women in the South, commenced a tradition of placing flowers on the graves of soldiers who had died for the Confederancy. Three years after the war ended, the Grand Army Republic, an organization composed of war veterans, proclaimed that May 30 would be the “official” date that the nation would honor soldiers who had died in the Civil War by decorating their graves with flowers. And so commencing in 1868, there has been a Decoration Day celebration at the end of May. (It was believed flowers would be in bloom all over the country.)
But it did not become a federally recognized national holiday until 1971. This was at the height of the Vietnam War while Nixon was in office, and rather than May 30, it was codified that the last Monday in the month of May would be the nation’s day to pay homage to those who had fought for their country.
There are still American soldiers overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the discussion of what to do about Syria is endless. There will always be debates about whether America should enter a conflict that does not directly impact the safety of our country. Personal, political and religious beliefs dictate one’s philosophy on the subject of war. However, honoring those who have, or had, a job that takes them to the front and back lines of armed conflict is not debatable. I raise a toast to them.
And, to the men and women who were members of the United States Armed Forces and died in its service, in my heart I place a flower on their graves, along with a wish for no more graves. May everyone return safely home.