Today we celebrate and ho or those who have died in the service of our country over many generations. The president will lay a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument guarded 24/7. A baler, somewhere, will sound the familiar notes of Taps. I’m sure I’ll cry, because I usually do.
But what do we really know about Memorial Day?
- One of the first known public tributes to war dead was in 431 B.C., when the Athenian general and statesman Pericles delivered a funeral oration praising the sacrifice and valor of those killed in the Peloponnesian War.
- On May 1, 1865, more than 1,000 recently freed slaves, accompanied by regiments of the U.S. Colored Troops (including the Massachusetts 54th Infantry) and a handful of white Charlestonians, gathered in the camp to consecrate a new, proper burial site for the Union dead.
- In May 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a decree that May 30 should become a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the recently ended Civil War.
- In April 1886, the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia resolved to commemorate the fallen once a year—a decision that seems to have influenced John Logan to follow suit.
- It didn’t become a federal holiday until 1971.
- Officially known as Decoration Day for more than a century, it was changed by Federal Law in 1964, and subsequently to the 4th Monday in May.
- The raising of the flag on Mt. Suribachi in WWII has become an iconic symbol of the men and women who fight for us.
So today, whether you have a family member in the military, or a friend, or just know the contributions of our military, let’s honor those who have served, those who have died, and this who continue to serve our country.
And take a minute to check out two of my favorite books Iive written about the military, from the series Strike Force, about a Delta Force Team.
Lock and Load.