Tomorrow is Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, and is a time to remember those who gave their lives in service to our nation. While Veteran’s Day in November honors all who served in the military, Memorial Day is a somber reminder of the ultimate sacrifice.
According to research conducted by John P. Blair with the National Archives History Office, several people and cities claim credit to the origins of Decoration Day. In an article titled “The Nation’s Sacrifice: The Origins and Evolution of Memorial Day,” Blair credits the origin to Major General John Alexander Logan, later the Commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a Union veterans group formed in the wake of the Civil War to honor the dead. “General Orders No. 11” by Logan designated May 30, 1868 for the “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 churchyard in the land…” and that it “be kept up year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades.”
Seventeen states participated, and the tradition was to continue as long as family members survived their loved ones. The tradition expanded to include not only loved ones, but all graves of military men and women, yet, because of the tensions between north and south, only one side’s falled were recognized.
Other cities and individuals led local efforts to decorate soldiers’ graves with flowers in their memory, but it was not until President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a bill on June 28, 1968, that the day became an official U. S. holiday.
I’m thankful for the freedoms we have because of those who have gone before us. Let us not take them for granted. –Pastor Ryan