Memorial Day is a special American holiday. My guess is that all countries have one day to remember those who have paid the ultimate price, as President Lincoln said. In the US we call it Memorial Day and it has a long history.
Let’s start with the war between the states or The Civil War (1861-65) and “Decoration Day“:
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “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.
The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.
On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
Later, it became Memorial Day after World War I and World War II:
For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
Looking back today and reading about Decoration Day, I am amazed how our ancestors were willing to decorate the graves of northern and southern soldiers. It’s a good lesson for those who want to remove statues. Sometimes the best way to heal is to honor the dead rather than selectively remove them from history.
Remember their sacrifice on Memorial Day.