Memorial day seems to be laced in a great deal of controversy as to who started it, where it started and why it started or even when it was started. Not all states acknowledged the occasion on the same day, and for many years, some southern states refused to acknowledge it at all because it seemed to be more connected to Union Soldiers than Confederate losses.
I remember as a little girl, we always got out of school for summer the week prior to Memorial day (and often on my birthday), we cut flowers from the yard and took them to the graves of loved ones and then spent the remainder of the day at the home of relatives enjoying potluck. I'm not sure if I knew the history of it at that time, but I did know it was set aside to remember those that had come and gone before us.
Actually the day is set aside for remembrance of those lost in military service and was never intended to be just an opportunity for a picnic or barbeque party, or a commercial enterprise.
The controversy about who started it, where and when is no doubt ongoing for those making their own claims. But there does seem to be consensus that it was started sometime near the end of the Civil war and that it was originally called *Decoration Day*. Five different locations around the country claim to have launched the day as a day of remembrance near the same time in history.
A Yale University historian claims the first Memorial Day was in April of 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina. When newly freedmen (former slaves), went into a Union Soldier prison camp and dug up 250 soldiers that had been buried in a mass grave. These individuals prepared the ground and reburied each soldier in an individual grave, built a fence around the area and an archway at the entrance. Then on May 1, 1865, former slaves, soldiers, white missionaries, school children, residents and teachers gathered as scriptures were read, gospel songs were sung and flowers were strewn on the graves.
Other claims are made that this occasion was started prior to the end of the Civil war, as early as 1861, when the first confederate soldier was buried in Virginia . Additional dates include, 1862, 1863 and 1864, 1865, 1866 and 1868. The only consensus it appears is that it was started in remembrance of soldiers lost in the Civil conflict.
The day marked for Memorial day, was not official until 1868, when a Union General designated May 30, as the official day of remembrance. The reason that date was chosen was because it was not a date associated with any battles and it was considered an optimal time for flowers to be in bloom around the country.
In 1868, Memorial Day events were held in 27 states in 183 cemeteries and by 1869, the number of cemeteries had nearly doubled to 336. By 1890 all Northern states had accepted the day as an official holiday. It was not until 1882, that the official name of Memorial Day was selected. Until this time it was still known as *Decoration Day*.
It was not until after World War I, when Memorial day was designated as a remembrance day for all soldiers lost in battle, that Memorial day become widespread around the nation including southern states. And it was not until 1967, that Federal Law designated the name as Memorial day. In 1968, US Congress passed a bill moving the original date of May 30, to the last Monday in May. It took several years for all states to adopt the new date. By 1971, all states had designated the date change to comply with Federal mandate, providing a three day weekend.
In more recent years, President Johnson, May 26, 1966, declared the birthplace of Memorial day was Waterloo, New York, in 1866, one hundred years earlier, though there was evidence that it had been started prior to this date in another location. I find it sad that with the stroke of a pen, history is altered forever. But one thing is certain, our military, past and present should be honored, regardless of the conflicts they served in. Without our military, this country would not be spending time at the barbeque or family gathering, or a long weekend spent out camping; this country would be suppressed as many other countries are even in these modern times.
Since this time, Memorial Day has lost some of its original meaning and become a commercial opportunity as well as an opportunity for rest and relaxation after a long stretch without a long weekend. There are still Veteran's parades, cemeteries are still lined with rows and rows of American Flags, there is still a gathering at Arlington National Cemetery at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the American Flags still fly at half staff until noon, when they are then raised to full staff. There is a designated *moment of silence* at 3:00 PM around the nation, where we are asked to take that moment to remember the loss of our soldiers lives in war conflicts not only in this nation but around the world.
So while you are enjoying your freedom to have that barbeque, camp out or family gathering, we hope you will take the opportunity to not only remember those soldiers that have been lost, but remember those military veteran's and current deployed soldiers for the sacrifices they have made and continue to make on behalf of each of us.
We have our own lost soldier; wounded several times, decorated with Silver and Bronze Stars and Purple Heart for his service to our nation. Though he was not lost in war, he has now passed on. The American flag flies above his grave daily, on the ground his father homesteaded and the ground where he toiled the majority of his life. We wish to honor our Brother in Law. John Wharton for his service to our country and the sacrifices he made for his fellow soldiers and countrymen. Rest in Peace.
Thank you to All Veteran's and current Military personnel for protecting us and our Nation from tyranny and suppression and continued efforts to provide our freedom.
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