Happy Memorial Day
Another day, another opportunity to make my presentation at GID, a Latin American Group in the Dallas area. We formed this group back in 1992 for fellowship and to learn more about roots. Over the years, we've had speakers and guests from Latin America, and we hear about the many traditions south of the border, and I mean all the way down to Argentina.
So I gave my annual presentation about Memorial Day, a special American holiday. My guess is that all countries have one day to remember those who have paid the ultimate price, as President Abraham Lincoln said. In the U.S., 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.
In 1968, it became Memorial Day.
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 impressed at the dedication of all of those who decorated the graves of Northern and Southern soldiers. Over time, we see celebrations for the fallen of recent wars, too. The wars where we may have a connection to the fallen soldier, as I did with Nathan Aguirre, a young man from our church killed in Iraq.
Every year I hear the same comments about how Americans respect and honor their veterans. It's different in most Latin American countries, where military service is not something people talk about.
Remember their sacrifice on Memorial Day.
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Image: Library of Congress.