Memorial Day is when we remember our departed ones. It is the day for expressing tributes to our honored dead, the more than 1 million men who gave their lives in battle since the Revolutionary War, defending the freedom that we enjoy today.
It is significant that a teenage girl is credited with having been the first to suggest the need for Memorial Day 149 years ago. The story is that on May 18, 1864, Emma Hunter in the little town of Boalsburg, Pa., gathered some wild flowers and took them to the grave of her father. He had been killed in the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg.
At the cemetery, Emma Hunter met a Mrs. Meyers, who had some wild flowers to place upon the grave of her 19 year old son, Joe, a private who had been killed in the Battle of Gettysburg. The girl and the woman talked about their loved ones. They shared their flowers and agreed to decorate the graves the following May 30.
They did meet a year later, but they were not alone. Many of the town folk also took flowers to the cemetery. In 1868, Gen. John A. Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued his famous order No. 11, designating May 30 as Decoration Day.
Though several cities took the initiative to decorate graves and hold services remembering the war dead, President Lyndon Johnson in 1966 declared Waterloo, N.Y. as the official birthplace of the holiday because it appeared to have the longest running communitywide annual recognition of the event.
Later, Decoration Day became Memorial Day to all states and territories, except a few in the deep south where they have Confederate Memorial dates. Congress declared memorial Day a national holiday in 1971, to be celebrated the last Monday in May, honoring all the dead from America’s Wars.
Memorial Day has been, through the years, a day for eulogies, flowers and prayers to express out love, out humility and our gratitude.
Our humbleness of spirit and gratitude recognize the indebtedness we feel for the many previous benefits we have inherited. Those are the touchstones of Memorial Day.
Memorial Day began as a tribute to the battle dead. It is still so today, in addition to being the special moment wherein the living commune briefly with all their departed ones.
We recall the touch of our loved ones. We offer up prayers for them and for God’s guidance of ourselves. Then we leave floral remembrances as tokens of our spititual detour.
It is true that all our honored dead were part of us. They were our own flesh and blood. They were in life the white men and the black men, the rich and the poor, the educated and the untutored, the Protestant and the Catholic, the Gentile and the Jew, the native sons and the foreign born.
But all those differences really matter not one bit because all those men were, above everything else, true Americans. They stood shoulder to shoulder with us against the common enemy. And in the final analysis, they gave more than we did, they give their lives.
Now in death, our departed comrades are one in the equality of heroism, Every man contributed and sacrificed in full measure to the victories that our Armies and Navies and Air Force achieved against the enemies.
Therefore, we express to all those men our highest tributes. The price they paid, a million lives through their loyalty and their valor, has assured the fact that we here today are free people honoring them.
These few lines can express our thoughts: “Fear not that you have died in vain. The torch you gave us we hold higher. The task is ours. The goal unchanged. And freedom’s light shall never die.”
Morrison-McFadden VFW Post 3111 and Ladies Auxiliary