The meaning of Memorial Day, unfortunately, changed over the years. It started in 1861 or 1862, depending on the story you choose to believe, as Decoration Day. Many towns over those next few years claimed to have started it, but it was on 3 June 1861, in Warrenton, VA, that grave decoration denoted a fallen soldier. That claim was in 1906.
It was on 5 May 1868, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the organization for Union Civil War veterans, that General John A. Logan issued a proclamation calling for "Decoration Day" to be observed annually and nationwide. The first Decoration Day was 30 May 1968; the date was late enough in the year to ensure flowers bloomed.
After World War II, Decoration Day became Memorial Day; Congress declared Memorial Day as the official name of the day. On 28 June 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, to a specified Monday, to create three-day weekends.
That moved Memorial Day from its traditional date of 30 May to last Monday in May. The law took effect on the Federal level in 1971; after much confusion and unwillingness, on the part of the states, the Monday Holiday Act became law, across the USA.
The meaning of Memorial Day has always been to honour the soldiers, of the armed forces, that gave their lives in service to their country. Recently, that has changed to also honour those people still serving in the armed forces.
Here’s where my pet peeve kicks in. People now expect to have that three-day weekend and great weather during the unofficial kick-off of summer, along with family barbecues and other fun activities. They also expect to find everything on sale at their favorite store.
Exactly when did Memorial Day and all those other holidays turn into shopping holidays? Why is come our attention now on saving money instead of honoring those that bravely served our country?
Instead of streaming into stores and making people work ridiculous hours and be away from their families, why aren’t they at home cooking on the grill, going to the beach, or attending hometown parades?
If I overhear one more person ask for a Memorial Day sale price, I swear the top of my head will explode. Why is shopping so important on Memorial Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day and other holidays that people can’t stay home and spend some quality time with their friends or family?
My father was a sergeant in the Army, during the Korean War; I know he had some sort of injury to his arm. I know this only because of the large scar he has. He rarely, if ever spoke about his army days, and I’ll have to ask him about that. Memorial Day is about him and other veterans.
I work with a couple of fellows that were in the Marines. They also don’t talk about their service days. They need thanks, too, for the service they did for their country.
Forget about having to rush out and buy that new thing you have to have, and stop to think for a moment about what Memorial Day means. If you have a family member or friend that was in the armed forces, call or visit them and say, “Thank you.”
Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.
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