Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day History


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
--Moina Michael, In Flanders Fields

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.  There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day.  There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War:  a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" (Source:  Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920).  While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day.  It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen. Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868.  It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established.  Memorial Day is not about division.  It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those gave their all.

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