Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance

How will you observe the day set aside to honor those United States soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice for your country? We know we can not pray for the dead, but we CAN remember with gratitude what each of those sacrifices means to each of us in 2009. We can pray for the families of those who have lost loved ones, especially those who have suffered recent losses. If you don't fly your flag every day, would you fly it tomorrow as a memorial tribute? When he was President, Bill Clinton set into effect a National Moment of Remembrance. I'm sharing his memo here. A moment is more than nothing, but as we celebrate the beginning of summer with a long weekend, maybe this Memorial Day more than any other we need to reflect on what it truly costs to live in the Land of Free and the Home of the Brave. I also posted a little bit of the history of Memorial Day. As Americans, we have so much , and so many, to be so very proud of!!
THE WHITE HOUSE


Office of the Press Secretary
________________________________________________________________________
For Immediate Release May 2, 2000



Memorandum on the White House Program for the National Moment
of Remembrance


Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies

Subject: White House Program for the National Moment of Remembrance

As Memorial Day approaches, it is time to pause and consider the
true meaning of this holiday. Memorial Day represents one day of
national awareness and reverence, honoring those Americans who died
while defending our Nation and its values. While we should honor these
heroes every day for the profound contribution they have made to
securing our Nation's freedom, we should honor them especially on
Memorial Day.
In this time of unprecedented success and prosperity throughout our
land, I ask that all Americans come together to recognize how fortunate
we are to live in freedom and to observe a universal ``National Moment
of Remembrance'' on each Memorial Day. This memorial observance
represents a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and
honor the struggle to protect our freedoms.
Accordingly, I hereby direct all executive departments and agencies,
in consultation with the White House Program for the National Moment of
Remembrance (Program), to promote a ``National Moment of Remembrance''
to occur at 3 p.m. (local time) on each Memorial Day.
Recognizing that Memorial Day is a Federal holiday, all executive
departments and agencies, in coordination with the Program and to the
extent possible and permitted by law, shall promote and provide
resources to support a National Moment of Remembrance, including:
Encouraging individual department and agency personnel, and
Americans everywhere, to pause for one minute at 3:00 p.m.
(local time) on Memorial Day, to remember and reflect on the
sacrifices made by so many to provide freedom for all.
Recognizing, in conjunction with Memorial Day, department
and agency personnel whose family members have made the
ultimate sacrifice for this Nation.
Providing such information and assistance as may be
necessary for the Program to carry out its functions.


William J. Clinton




A LITTLE HISTORY LESSON: MEMORIAL DAY

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.



Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye's Heights (the Luminaria Program). And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.

To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps."

The Moment of Remembrance is a step in the right direction to returning the meaning back to the day. What is needed is a full return to the original day of observance. Set aside one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country.

But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: "Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day."

1 comment:

Blessed Mom of 8 said...

Wow! I didn't know that. Thanks for sharing this with me. I'm going to print it out and share it with everyone this morning!

Even without knowing all of those facts we stop and remember all of those who are and have defended our freedom! Praying for your servicemen today!

I love you,
Jill