Memorial Day. Are We Celebrating Correctly?

By: Steve Dodd

As Memorial Day approaches, millions of Americans are getting ready to travel, head to camp grounds or fire up the grill inviting friends, family and neighbors over for a cookout. But is this the correct way to celebrate Memorial Day?

To understand the holiday better, we need to look at the origins of the Memorial Day holiday. In fact, we need to look back to the Civil War days.

Ending in the spring of 1865, the Civil War claimed more lives than any other conflict in the history of the United States. The establishment of the first national cemeteries was a direct result.

The exact location of the first tribute to the fallen soldiers is unknown but many towns and cities began springtime ceremonies to honor the dead by decorating the graves and reciting prayers during the late 1860s. There was not a set date and each locale chose its own.

The day of remembrance was originally known as Decoration Day because of the practice of placing flowers on the graves.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, a former Union soldier and an advocate for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later in the month for those killed in the conflict.

“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.

Declaration Day was dedicated only to those lost in the Civil War until the United States became embroiled in World War 1. It was then decided that Declaration Day would be expanded to honor all lost in wars fought by the United States.

For many decades, Declaration Day continued to be celebrated on May 30 of each year. In 1966, Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Act establishing the designating the last Monday in May as the official date and renamed Declaration day to Memorial Day. The law became effective in 1971 making it a federal holiday and creating the three day weekend.

Across the nation, the United States flag is flown at half-staff on Memorial Day. Congress also addressed Memorial Day by passing a bill which became law. According to 36 U. S. Code 116:
The last Monday in May is Memorial Day.
(b)PROCLAMATION. —The President is requested to issue each year a proclamation—
calling on the people of the United States to observe Memorial Day by praying, according to their individual religious faith, for permanent peace;
designating a period of time on Memorial Day during which the people may unite in prayer for a permanent peace;
calling on the people of the United States to unite in prayer at that time; and
calling on the media to join in observing Memorial Day and the period of prayer.”

Memorial Day was not created as a day of celebration but rather one of somber reflection and honor of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice in battle. As the saying goes, “All gave some but some gave all.” It is a day to honor those who died to protect our liberty.

A recent post on social media pretty well describes how we should approach Memorial Day.
“Here are some good points to consider for Memorial Day:
1. Don’t wish anyone a Happy Memorial Day. There is nothing happy about brave men and women dying.
2. It is not a holiday; it is a day for remembrance.
3. Remember the fallen for all the good they did while they were here.
4. Remember that many animals also serve and die in the military.
5. Say a prayer… and then another.”

Will the tone of Memorial Day change from celebration to somber remembrance? Probably not, but we can all take a few minutes from our celebration to remember those who have fallen in battle. Let’s say a prayer honoring those killed, thank them for their sacrifice and pray for our nation.