Memorial Day has to be one of my least favorite holidays. It’s a day (or a weekend) that I do my very best to not spend too much time on my soapbox. There is no “happy” Memorial Day in my household. I guess there could be, but since before I can even remember Memorial Day has been a day of remembrance. Today, I don’t think you have to be a member of a family who lost a loved one in battle (like I am) to under the sadness that is felt. My family’s loss is not even of my generation. I never had the privilege to meet my Uncle, but I feel like through the stories my grandmother told me and growing up with his children I know who he was. And since I was old enough to remember I knew he gave the ultimate sacrifice for this country and with that each generation after him was effected.
In the past few years of researching my family tree I have found my uncle’s passing during Vietnam was not the only line of duty loss my family has seen. My great-great grandfather (I believe only two greats), on my Meme’s side, died as a Confederate Soldier in battle during the Civil War.
Let me stop rambling for a moment so I can hoist myself up on my soap box. Ready?
Memorial Day is a day where we are to honor American Soldiers who died, gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom, during service to our country in war. Do I need to remind that they died?
You see, Memorial Day has a tendency to get mixed up with Veterans Day. Veterans Day is the day (in November) when we honor all military personal who served the United States in all wars, particularly living veterans. Don’t get me wrong, I think that everyone who as signed up to give a part of their life to our country deserves to be honored, but Memorial Day is not Veterans Day. Are you with me?
I bite my tongue when people post pictures of their family members on Memorial Day that are veterans who are either still living or passed away 10, 20, even 50 years after their time on the battle field. Now, the last part of that statement is kind of controversial when you take into consideration all of the service men from my dad’s generation (including my father) who have been faced with cancer due to (we believe) their exposure to Agent Orange. So I do admit…the last part of my statement maybe incorrect in some cases (this is me admitting that, so that no one can unleash fury on me, ok?) Does this make me bad? I really think that some do not understand the true difference between these two holidays.
Here are some facts I pulled from CNN today in regards to Memorial Day.
Celebrated on the last Monday in May.
Several towns claim to be the originators of Memorial Day but in 1966, Congress declared Waterloo, New York, to be the birthplace of the holiday.
Memorial Day originally honored military personnel who died in the Civil War (1861-1865).
The holiday now honors those who died in any war while serving with the United States.
It is also called Decoration Day.
May 5, 1866 - Residents of Waterloo, New York, observe a Memorial Day in honor of all who died during the Civil War. Businesses are closed and soldiers' graves are decorated.
1868 - General John Alexander Logan officially proclaims May 30, 1868 as Memorial Day in honor of the Union soldiers who died in the Civil War. Until after World War I, southern states celebrate a separate Memorial Day in honor of the Confederate dead.
1971 - Congress declares Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.
December 28, 2000 - signs the "National Moment of Remembrance Act," which designates 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day each year as the National Moment of Remembrance.
While it not my intention to stop your bar-b-que this weekend (I am mean this is the holiday that kicks off Summer, right?), I am asking you to spend a moment (or hell, why not the entire day) thinking about what this holiday is truly about. As you pop the top on a cold one and begin to say “Happy Memorial Day” please remember to pray for the families who are associated with the numbers below because in some household in this nation it’s not a “Happy” day.
Civil War - Approximately 620,000 Americans died. The Union lost almost 365,000 troops and the Confederacy about 260,000. More than half of these deaths were caused by disease.
- 116,516 Americans died, more than half from disease.
- 405,399 Americans died.
- 36,574 Americans died.
- 58,220 Americans died. More than 47,000 Americans were killed in action and nearly 11,000 died of other causes.
- 148 U.S. battle deaths and 145 non-battle deaths.
- 4,422 U.S. service members died.
- 66 U.S. service members died.
- 2,318 U.S. service members have died as of May 12, 2014.
Lift the hearts of those for whom this holiday is not just a diversion, but painful memory and continued deprivation. Bless those whose dear ones have died. We remember with compassion and heartfelt thanks, those who have died serving their country.