Don’t Wish Me a Happy Memorial Day

The Marine corps league has shared some ground rules for this weekend. 

  • 1) “Don’t wish me a Happy Memorial Day. There is nothing happy about brave men and women dying. 
  • 2) It’s not a holiday. It is a rememberance. 
  • 3) If you want to know the true meaning, visit Arlington or your local VA not Disney.” 

I don’t mean to be a bummer on a 3-day weekend. I love having a good time as much as the next person. But I look at my children, and thankfully war has only grazed their lives. They have not lost anyone to war, written letters not knowing if they would ever be received, worried if someone would come home and if they did how they would be forever changed. I’m old enough that I’ve seen history forgotten as history repeated.  

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy, forget in time that men have died to win them.” I want to raise children who are grateful for the soldiers who risked their lives fighting for the freedoms that they enjoy today. Who understand that our right to own a home, to worship publicly, to speak out for what we believe in, are freedoms we have only because of the blood shed by others. 

Memorial Day History 

The practice of honoring fallen soldiers dates back thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Romans held annual days of remembrance placing flowers on graves and holding large public feasts in the honor of brave warriors. One of the United States first public festivals was held by recently freed African Americans. As the civil War neared the end, thousands of Union soldiers, who were prisoners of war were quickly moved to camps near Charleston, South Carolina. Camp conditions were deplorable, especially at one camp which was a former racetrack. At that camp, 257 prisoners died from disease and exposure and were buried behind the tracks grandstand. 

Three weeks after the Confederate surrendered, over 1,000 recently freed slaves accompanied by different regiments of the US Colored Troops gathered to properly rebury the 257 soldiers. The new graves were covered with flowers, with thousands of people parading down the racetrack of what had been the prison camp. The civil war ended in 1865 after 4 years and 622,000 lives lost. The government established national cemeteries for the first time. This war had put family members and friends on opposite sides, there was a deep desire to honor the lives that were lost and heal the wounds of war.  

Many cities and states had their own celebrations of remberance. Some southern states still celebrate a Confederate Memorial Day. For more than 50 years, this holiday was used to reflect on fallen soldiers from the Civil War. When Americans entered World War I the tradition was expanded to include those who fought in all wars. This holiday was often referred to as Memorial Day but officially was named Decoration day. In 1964, the holiday name was officially changed to Memorial Day. In 1968, the holiday was moved from May 30th to the last Monday of May. 

So this weekend as we fly our flags at half staff , and join millions for a moment of rememberance at 3pm local time., keep in mind these additional suggestions from the Marine Corps. 

“Say a prayer… and then another. 

Remember the fallen for all the good they did while there were here.  

Reach out and let a Vet know you’re there. We are losing too many in “peace.”

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