Saturday, May 19, 2007

Memorial Day: A little History, A Lot Of Honor

Before I begin, the picture to the left is my Grandfather, Robert Kearney. He was a communications officer aboard a B-25 Bomber during WWII, and one of the greatest men to ever grace this planet. More coming on that in another post.

My mother recently told me something very interesting. I know what you are thinking - I was found in a tree stump, given up by trolls. No, you are wrong! And shame on you for thinking such a horrible thing (we all know I was left by gypsies). In actuality, she listed all the Memorial Day services being held in her community on the 28th. Why is this cool? Well, I don't have to tell you, it seems.

You see, there is great hope for our society. Sometimes popular culture celebrates the actor pretending to be a soldier more than the actual soldier. However - we as individuals do NOT, and this is very important. We all have our guilty pleasures - American Idol, Desperate Housewives etc. Mine is Buffy the Vampire Slayer (that's right, proud member of the Scooby Gang). But when it comes down to it, I bet any one of you would honor the soldiers who died for our country more than all of Hollywood combined. The media can throw what it wants at us, it doesn't matter - it's shaved Britney Spears' heads, it's pompous clothes designers snapping their fingers, it's American Idol rejects crying and running amok outside the audition room. Throw it all! In the end we all know, and always have known, what is most important in life.

That is America. We love the absurd and cherish the significant. We laugh at mundane sitcoms, yet stand and honor those who truly deserve it. We are a great people, sometimes we just need to remember.

For the 28th, Here are some quick facts about Memorial Day:

- Memorial Day began as a result of the Civil War. Various communities held services for the fallen, with veteran groups often leading the way. One of the earliest ones began in 1866 in Waterloo, NY (the official "birthplace" of Memorial Day), held on May 5th annually.

- As leader of the Veterans group "The Grand Army of the Republic," General John A Logan led the call for a national Memorial Day. On May 5th, 1868, Logan declared a national "Decoration Day" to be held on May 30th every year. That date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular Civil War battle.

- At first, many Southern States refused to celebrate Decoration Day because of continuing hostility toward the North, although they held their own Confederate Memorial Days. This changed, however, after WWI as many of the veterans were from the South.

- The name "Memorial Day" was not used regularly until after WWII. Decoration Day likely came from the tradition of decorating soldiers graves with flowers and other items. Southern women's groups were particularly involved in this practice, and set an example for the rest of the nation.

- In 1968 Congress passed the "Uniform Holiday Bill" which moved four holidays to Mondays: President' Day, Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, and Memorial Day. This was done to create three day weekends, and moved the date of Memorial Day from May 30th to the last Monday of May. This may have inadvertently led to the dwindling of Memorial Day celebrations, as Americans became distracted by the three day weekend.

- Memorial Day specifically honors US soldiers that have fallen during military service. This is not to be confused with Veterans Day, which largely honors and thanks our living veterans.

- Since the 1950's, the 3rd US infantry places American Flags at all of the Graves at Arlington National Cemetery, then patrols the entire weekend to make sure the flags stand.

- Every year, the Boy and Girl Scouts place candles at each of the 15,300 graves at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park

- In 2000, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed by Bill Clinton to ask for a voluntary moment of silence at 3:00 pm by all Americans each Memorial Day.

- In 2004, Washington DC held it's first Memorial Day Parade in 60 years.

Even with the best intentions, it is sometimes easy to forget Memorial Day with today's fast moving society. We all have done it, or at least not celebrated it as much as we should have. But we don't have to be perfect...America isn't perfect, and it is not supposed to be. America gives us the freedom to better ourselves, and perhaps that is most important of all. On Memorial Day, lets try to remember the men and women who died for our country.

"We cherish too,
the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies."

- Miona Michael, 1915


Anniina said...

Great post. Funny about you being left by the gypsies... my mom always said if I didn't behave, she'd give me to the gypsies. True story.

Kat said...

I like your line about Americans: "We love the absurd and cherish the significant." And we do "stand up and honor those who truly deserve it." You're right that on Memorial Day it isn't about power or politics, but about Americans who died for their country. Thanks for the history,
and for carrying onward the remembrance. Kat

Jarod said...

Anniina - I was lying, I was found in a time capsule.
Kat - Thanks!

Anniina said...

From the future or from the past? Jedi or knyght?

LisaB said...

Your Grandfather looked wonderful! So much personality in his smile...

Love the fun facts!

Jarod said...

Thanks Lisa!

Mary said...

A heartfelt thanks to all of those and their families who have given their lives in service to our country as we honor them on Memorial Day.

Thanks, Jarod. I loved seeing Hoppy's smile. I have printed this for Gee to see.