is the unofficial, official start of summer. There will be cookouts
across America; people will eat too much, drink too much, and get
sunburned. They will watch parades, baseball games, auto races, and the
NCAA Lacrosse title game. ECU baseball fans will worry about the
Pirates' chance of getting into the national tournament, and high
school seniors will be graduating and worrying about trips to the beach.
But Memorial Day weekend should also be remembered for what it was
intended: to honor our servicemen and women who died in war. But most
people don't even know the history behind this holiday. So here's a
little history lesson.
In 1866, the United States was recovering from the Civil War. Surviving
soldiers came home with stories to tell and wounds to heal. Henry
Welles, a drugstore owner in Waterloo, New York, heard the stories and
had an idea. He suggested that all the shops in town close for one day
to honor the soldiers who were killed in the Civil War and were buried
in the Waterloo cemetery. On the morning of May 5, the townspeople
placed flowers, wreaths and crosses on the graves of the Northern
soldiers in the cemetery. At about the same time, Retired Major General
Jonathan A. Logan planned another ceremony, this time for the soldiers
who survived the war. He led the veterans through town to the cemetery
to decorate their comrades' graves with flags. It was not a happy
celebration, but a memorial. The townspeople called it Decoration Day.
The two ceremonies were joined in 1868, and northern states
commemorated the day on May 30. The southern states commemorated their
war dead on different days. Children read poems and sang Civil War
songs and veterans came to schools wearing their medals and uniforms to
tell students about the Civil War. Then the veterans marched through
their home towns followed by the townspeople to the cemetery. They
decorated graves and took photographs of soldiers next to American
flags. Rifles were shot in the air as a salute to the northern soldiers
who had given their lives to keep the United States together.
In 1882, the name was changed to Memorial Day and soldiers who had died
in previous wars were honored as well. In the northern United States,
it was designated a public holiday. In 1971, along with other holidays,
President Richard Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday on the
last Monday in May.
Memorial Day is not limited to honor only those Americans from the
armed forces. It is also a day for personal remembrance. Families and
individuals honor the memories of their loved ones who have died.
Church services, visits to the cemetery, flowers on graves or even
silent tribute mark the day with dignity and solemnity. It is a day of
So take some time this weekend among the madness to think of those who
made your fun filled weekend possible. And then get ready for the
Pirates trip to the NCAA Tournament.