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May 30, 2011

Pause to Honor Those Lost to Freedom

Michael Kurtianyk


I just purchased a new American flag to post off our front porch. I did so because we hadn’t had one for a while. I took a picture of my daughters holding our new flag, and it is posted on my Facebook page. I felt it was time, what with Memorial Day and the 4th of July coming up.


In doing research on Memorial Day, I came across some interesting facts. For example, Memorial Day was first celebrated on May 30, 1868? It was actually proclaimed by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, which was issued on May 5th, 1868. I found the original orders fascinating. In part, they were as follows:


“The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.


“Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from his honor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.”


The rest of General Logan’s declaration can be found here:


Gen. James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery on that day, after which five thousand participants helped decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.


One bit of trivia about the date of May 30. It was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.


The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. However, the South refused to acknowledge Memorial Day. Instead, the South honored their dead on different days for decades after the Civil War. It wasn’t until after World War I that the South agreed to a unified date, because the holiday changed from honoring not just those who died fighting in the Civil War, but also those who died in any war.


It is now celebrated in every state on the last Monday in May. This date was designated by Congress in the National Holiday Act of 1971. It was set up so that we could have a three-day weekend. However, there are a few southern states which have an additional and separate day for honoring their Confederate War dead. They are as follows: January 19 in Texas; April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 in Louisiana and Tennessee.


In 2000, Congress passed a resolution that there be a “National Moment of Remembrance,” which asks everyone to pause at 3 P.M. on Memorial Day in an act of national unity.


Don’t contact me then. I won’t answer. I’ll be remembering those who’ve died so that we can live in freedom, while I stand next to our new flag.


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