By RU Rob
While Memorial Day in the United States often induces thoughts of the beginning of summer, BBQ’s and a long holiday weekend, it is not celebrated as intended. 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 its birthplace but 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.
Traditional observance of Memorial Day has sadly diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day as well as its importance to many who have lost someone in the service to the country. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected and have fallen into a state of disrepair. 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.
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.”
As we look back on 10 continuous years of war, the loss of our friends and loved ones, it is important that we now, more than ever, return to the roots of this most sacred celebration. We at The Rhino Den and Ranger Up wish to remember them as well. If you have lost a brother or sister, family member or friend, please leave their name below as a tribute to them and a reminder to all of us that “Freedom isn’t Free.”
Here’s to those that have gone before us and made the ultimate sacrifice. May we never, ever forget.