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home : opinion : opinion July 18, 2019

5/27/2019 6:17:00 PM
Thoughts On Memorial Day
Lincoln Herald Staff Photos
Lincoln Herald Staff Photos

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Photo Gallery 1-11 by Lincoln Herald Staff
Photo Gallery 12-15 Courtesy Kirk Herbertson

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

It was Memorial Day, a day to remember those who died while serving in the US military.  Some had cookouts; others took advantage of the long weekend to go on trips to the beach; some--though likely not many--participated in the 'national moment of remembrance' at 3 PM Monday afternoon. 

The VFW had its Sunday evening gathering to mark the occasion as usual and the luminaries in the shape of a cross on the lawn that has become a tradition were lit.

On Monday, the Veterans Council held a brief ceremony on the Courthouse lawn.

Memorial Day, celebrated on the 30th of May until the 1970s when it became one of the holidays always celebrated on Monday (in this case, the last Monday in May), was originally known as Decoration Day.

On the day, friends and relatives of fallen soldiers would decorate their graves with flowers and flags. It was originally meant only to commemorate those who died during the Civil War, a war that claimed the lives of 600 - 800 thousand Americans--to this day, still our bloodiest conflict.

While several cities and towns had celebrated such a day beginning in 1866, John Logan, head of the Union Soldiers veterans organization, chose the day (May 30th) and the event has been held every year since 1868; but the first such event was actually in Charleston, SC. When Charleston fell and Confederate troops evacuated the city, freed slaves exhumed the bodies of fallen Union soldiers from a mass grave and reinterred them in a new cemetery. Then they decorated their graves.

While northern states began celebrating the day on May 30th as suggested by Logan, most Southern states celebrated on other days--because they thought the day was meant only to honor fallen Union soldiers. That changed with World War I, after which the entire nation began celebrating Memorial Day (its new name) on May 30th, honoring all US soldiers (and Confederates, too) who had died in service.

While one may reasonably question whether America should have been involved in Vietnam or Iraq, those who served did so because they felt it their duty. They did indeed die for their country--even if the conflict in which they died was ill-advised or wrong.

It is with appreciation for their sacrifice and self-effacing patriotism ("my country, right or wrong") that we salute them and promise that while gone, they are not forgotten.

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