Memorial Day

Monday is Memorial Day. What does this day mean for you? Is it the start of the summer season? Cook-outs, camping, vacations? Or is it something else? One of the longest standing traditions is the running of the Indianapolis 500, which has been held in conjunction with Memorial Day since 1911. It is also traditionally viewed as the beginning of summer by many, since many schools are dismissed around Memorial Day.

Now, there is nothing wrong with celebrating this federal holiday in this manner. My family and I plan to go to Francis Slocum State Park to hike, geocache, and have a cookout with 70-100 other people (all geocachers). We will go swimming at the pool and or lake, maybe do a little fishing. In general, we are going to have a long relaxing weekend enjoying the company of family and friends.

However, did you know that Memorial Day was not meant to be a day for beer drinking, camping, hot dog eating and the like? Here are some interesting facts about this holiday:

  • Memorial Day is a United States Federal Holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May.
  • It was formerly known as Decoration Day.
  • The alternative name of “Memorial Day” was first used in 1882, but did not become more common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967 .
  • This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country.
  • It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War.
  • After World War I, it was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action.
  • According to Professor David Blight of the Yale University History Department, the first Memorial Day was observed in 1865 by liberated slaves at the historic race track in Charleston. The site was a former Confederate prison camp as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who had died while captive. A parade with thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers was followed by patriotic singing and a picnic.
  • The official birthplace of Memorial Day is Waterloo, New York. The village was credited with being the birthplace because it observed the day on May 5, 1866, and each year thereafter, and because it is likely that the friendship of General John Murray, a distinguished citizen of Waterloo, and General John A. Logan, who led the call for the day to be observed each year and helped spread the event nationwide, was a key factor in its growth.

Take an hour or so this weekend and honor our fallen service men and women. Visit a national cemetary or the grave of a soldier or sailor. If you know a soldier or sailor take a few moments to thank them for their service to our country. Explain to your children the importance of the ultimate sacrifice these brave men and women gave so that we may enjoy our freedom to eat hot dogs and go camping.

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Published in: Uncategorized on May 22, 2008 at 11:29  Leave a Comment  
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