A little Memorial Day history

"Remember" by Ian Sane, some rights reserved

NATIONWIDE (WOWO) – Memorial Day is a day where we remember our fallen soldiers and pay tribute to them. Some will visit the graves of family members and lay out flowers, some will attend a Memorial Day parade, some will travel to Arlington Cemetery at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and some will spend the day celebrating by grilling out with family and friends.  However, Memorial Day is much different than it used to be.

The holiday was not always called Memorial Day – According Time Magazine, the holiday started off as being called “Decoration Day.”  The idea was to honor and remember the fallen, soldiers would put flowers, flags and wreaths on the graves of their fallen comrades.  The day coined the name Memorial Day in the 1880’s, however, it would not be legally called Memorial Day until 1968.

The holiday used to be observed on May 30 – After the Civil War, General John A. Logan, commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a holiday to remember and honor fallen soldiers and set the date for May 30.  Later it was changed to the last Monday of May because of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which to effect in 1971.  The move would also ensure a long weekend.  Currently, groups like veterans’ organization, American Legion, are trying to change the day back to the 30th of May

You are required to remember the fallen – There is a law in effect that requires Americans to pause at 3:00 p.m. local time to honor and remember fallen soldiers.  That law was passed by Congress in 2000.  However, it seems that most people are unaware of the law.

Confederate Memorial Day is also celebrated – Some of the southern states also observe Confederate Memorial Day in addition to Memorial Day.  Texas, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia all celebrate Confederate Memorial Day to honor the men who died in the Civil War, fighting for the Confederacy.  Celebrated days vary in each state.

Waterloo, New York is considered Memorial Day’s birthplace – That is according to Congress who unanimously passed a resolution to officially recognize Waterloo as the birthplace of Memorial Day.  That day is highly debated as there are other towns that claim they were the birthplace as well.

More people will travel for Memorial Day this year – According to AAA estimates, more than 36 million people will travel a minimum of 50 miles away from home this Memorial Day.  That total is the highest since the last recession.

Memorial Day is for federal workers only – According to mentalfloss.com, the holiday is a federal holiday created by Congress and applies only to federal employees and the District of Columbia.  Originally designed to allow Civil War veterans to honor their fallen comrades without losing pay as many of them were drawing federal paychecks.  For the non-government employees, our Memorial Days off were enacted on a state by state basis.

Originally no form of ceremony was prescribed for observance of the holiday – Over time, many customs and symbols became associated with the holiday.  Some acquired and currently practiced customs include:

  • Flying the American flag at half-staff until noon then raised up to the top of the staff until sunset.
  • Taps commonly played at all military funerals and memorial services. The song originated in 1862 when Union General Dan Butterfield grew tired of the “lights out” call that was sounded at the end of each day.  Butterfield made changes to the tune with the brigade bugler.  Shortly after, it was used at a burial for the first time when a commander ordered it played instead of the three rifle volleys over the grave.  The reason was the commander was so close to enemy lines that they were afraid the three rifle volley would initiate battle.
  • The custom of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day was inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields.”  Teacher and volunteer war worker, Monia Michael campaigned to make the poppy a symbol of tribute to veterans.  Since then, the sale of poppies has supported the work of the V.F.W.

If you are looking to do something specific to the holiday this year, Visit Fort Wayne lists a couple of things going on in the Fort Wayne area.

Friday 9:00 p.m. to Saturday 9:00 p.m., the Allen County Council of Veteran Organization will hold their annual 24-hour watch fire event at the Veterans Memorial Shrine located on O’Day Road. Visitors can throw a log into the fire in honor of a veteran who has passed.  All ages are welcome and everyone is encouraged to bring a lawn chair.  Food and beverages are also welcome.

Starting on Monday at 11:00 a.m. at the corner of Parnell St. and State Blvd., you can watch the Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony.  The parade will follow Parnell all of the way to the Memorial Coliseum.  Following the parade, there will be a special Memorial Day Ceremony honoring those who have fought and given their lives to serve our country.

 

 

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