Posted by: reddiva | May 28, 2010

Honoring Memorial Day and Remembering Our Fallen Soldiers


I looked for a good explanation of exactly what Memorial Day was intended to represent.  I know what it means to me, of course, as do you.  Still I wanted to see an objective description written by an American source which is about as totally unbiased politically as possible.  The most complete I found was this one from Wikipedia.

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (May 31 in 2010). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service.  First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the Civil War), it was expanded after World War I.

At the end of the Civil War, communities set aside a day to mark the end of the war or as a memorial to those who had died. Some of the places creating an early memorial day include Sharpsburg, Maryland, located near Antietam Battlefield; Charleston, South Carolina; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; Carbondale, Illinois; Columbus, Mississippi; many communities in Vermont; and some two dozen other cities and towns. These observances coalesced around Decoration Day, honoring the Confederate dead, and the several Confederate Memorial Days.

According to Professor David Blight of the Yale University History Department, the first memorial day was observed by formerly enslaved black people at the Washington Race Course (today the location of Hampton Park) in Charleston, South Carolina. The race course had been used as a temporary Confederate prison camp for captured Union soldiers in 1865, as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who died there. Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, formerly enslaved people exhumed the bodies from the mass grave and reinterred them properly with individual graves. They built a fence around the graveyard with an entry arch and declared it a Union graveyard. The work was completed in only ten days. On May 1, 1865, the Charleston newspaper reported that a crowd of up to ten thousand, mainly black residents, including 2800 children, proceeded to the location for included sermons, singing, and a picnic on the grounds, thereby creating the first Decoration Day.

The first observance was in Waterloo, New York, on May 5, 1866, and each year thereafter. The friendship between General John Murray, a distinguished citizen of Waterloo, and General John A. Logan, who helped bring attention to the event nationwide, was likely a factor in the holiday’s growth. On May 5, 1868, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans’ organization, Logan issued a proclamation that “Decoration Day” be observed nationwide.  It was observed for the first time on May 30 of the same year; the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of a battle. The tombs of fallen Union soldiers were decorated in remembrance.

Many of the states of the U.S. South refused to celebrate Decoration Day, due to lingering hostility towards the Union Army and also because there were relatively few veterans of the Union Army who were buried in the South. A notable exception was Columbus, Mississippi, which on April 25, 1866, at its Decoration Day commemorated both the Union and Confederate casualties buried in its cemetery.

[…]

Many people observe this holiday by visiting cemeteries and memorials.  A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time. Another tradition is to fly the flag of the United States at half-staff from dawn until noon local time. Volunteers often place American flags on each grave site at National Cemeteries.

I searched on Google for the names of the U.S. Presidents who have honored America’s fallen soldiers by placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.  By far, the most interesting entry I found was the one from Snopes.com, leaning heavily toward Obama as you might expect.

…On several occasions in just the last thirty years, U.S. presidents have been elsewhere on Memorial Day (either vacationing or attending to other presidential duties), while other administration officials represented them at the wreath-laying ceremony:

[…]

At this point, the article lists three U.S. presidents who did not participate in the National recognition.  Who do you suppose might be the first president that they would list?  Wow!  You’re smart!

In 2002, President George W. Bush was in France on Memorial Day and participated in ceremonies at Normandy (site of the D-Day landings) honoring the U.S. soldiers who fought and died in World War II.  In his place, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

President George H.W. Bush (himself a World War II veteran) attended no ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery during his four years in office…

President Ronald Reagan was away from Arlington on Memorial Day on four occasions during his eight years in office:  In 1981, he (who had been seriously wounded in an assassination attempt six weeks earlier) spent the Memorial Day weekend at his ranch in Santa Barbara, California

I don’t suppose he could have been recuperating from a serious gunshot wound and resulting surgery, could he?  Injured “in the line of duty” I think would definitely excuse him from my expectation that my president should have attended to his “official duty.”

Then this further jab at Republican presidents:

(Note:  President Bill Clinton has no entry in this list because he attended Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington each year throughout his eight years in office.)

This entire list from Snopes.com was printed because of the claim, “…Obama will become the first U.S. president not to lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.”  Naturally, they chose to go back only 30 years.  Who wants to bet that selection was made because from the last 30 years all but one U.S. president until Obama has been Republican?

Why must they insist on making it so unbelievably political?  This is not a political recognition, and I resent the fact that they have handled it in this manner.

Memorial Day is set aside to recognize the fallen American soldier.  I expect my president, regardless who he or she is, to represent me at the National Recognition when it is at all possible.  I will not politicize this glaring addition of Obama’s dereliction of duty by stating that he is NOT MY PRESIDENT.

Allow me to ignore the politicization of this solemn event with this Remembrance.  This, my friends, is what Memorial Day is about.  Please do not ever let this special day of recognition leave our hearts and our memories.

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Responses

  1. hello fellow blogger. Great job on ack. Memorial Day. Have a safe one.

    MEMORIAL DAY HONOR- THANK YOU ALL SERVICE MEN & WOMEN

  2. Celebreting Memorial Holiday. Thanks for all services you have done.

  3. I simply blank out politics when I attend services on Memorial Day at Camp Nelson National Cemetary here in KY.
    I suspect politics was the furthest thing in the minds of those who died in service.
    Those who politicize Memorial Day? Let’s see their service records!


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