Multiple cities have claimed to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, but in 1966 the government officially declared Waterloo, New York, as the national holiday birthplace. The debates on the home of Memorial day came to a close, but the history remains unchanged. Memorial Day was born on May 5, 1868, under Army General Order Number 11. The order recognized Memorial Day, then called Decoration Day, by stating, “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of 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.” On that first Memorial Day, over 20,000 graves of both the Union and Confederacy in Arlington cemetery were decorated with flowers.
After the first Memorial Day, several states celebrated it. Some celebrated at the end of May as the original date, and others chose their dates. In World War I, the holiday transformed from commemorating those who died in the Civil War to celebrate the service of those who died in any war. The National Holiday Act of 1971 made the last Monday of May the holiday’s official date for all fifty states. It has since become a tradition to recite the poem “On Flanders Field” each memorial day in various countries.
This Memorial Day is no different than any other. We now have more wars, more conflicts, and more men and women to remember than before. Our country has been involved in wars from the Revolution to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lives have been given both on this continent and around the world. It is fitting and appropriate that during this three-day weekend, as you celebrate or relax, you should take a moment to remember.
There are counties today where freedom is not allowed. There are people still to this day seeking admission, acceptance, and the opportunity to become citizens of the United States. Every day they come from countries around the world. They seek freedom, they seek possibilities, and they seek the life of the American Dream. Sadly there are those in this country claiming the American Dream is dead. They claim Socialism or some other form of government should be in place. They seek to change, modify, and even put away the freedoms promised by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. We must remain vigilant to honor those who have given their lives to protect our freedom.
On this Memorial Day 2021, put down the burger, put down the hot dog, pause, and remember. Someone died so that you could eat that food in peace, in the home of the brave, and in the home the most desired state of existence in the world, in a state of freedom. That freedom was not free, and it will not be in the future. So take that moment to remember that someone died so that today you can look to a brighter future filled with freedom.
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