Decoration Day ~ Memorial Day, Who are You Thinking of this Weekend?

I dedicate this post to my Grandfather and to the Organized Child’s Godfather, thank you for your love and dedication to this country!

I have not written in quite awhile because my life has gotten rather hectic and sometimes overwhelming.  But on this eve of Memorial Day, I feel compelled to write something.  Friday night we took a friend to the Magic Kingdom.  He hadn’t been in awhile and he will be leaving for the seminary soon, so we thought it would be fun to go.  We mostly rode rides and saw things he had never done before, one being the Hall of Presidents.

I love the American Adventure Pavilion at Epcot; it does a great job of telling the story of the United States in a short half hour presentation.  So, I figured I haven’t been to the Hall of Presidents since I was a kid, I’ll bet it will be a lot like the American Adventure Pavilion, let go see it.  I have never subjected my children to the almost half hour presentation because truth be told I HATED going to the Hall of Presidents when I was a kid!  I thought it was beyond boring!  I didn’t care that it was air conditioned and it got you out of the over 90 degree heat for almost a half an hour, I HATED it!  Therefore I figured my kids would hate it too.  Since it was only the Director, Oldest, the Organized Child and our friend, I thought if it’s as bad as I remember they can suck it up and get over it, at least we will have cooled off!

Obviously I DID NOT pay attention to the presentation when I was a kid, like the American Adventure Pavilion  the Hall of Presidents is an excellent presentation.  It is a great portrayal of our past presidents.  It gives wonderful history and inspires patriotism.  And that’s where my post begins.  I’m sorry to say, I think we are really lacking patriotism in this country!  We got a boost in the arm after 9/11, who wouldn’t?!  But, sadly our chaotic, busy lives have taken over and patriotic apathy is once again the way of life.

Memorial Day has become just another day off of work, marking the beginning of summer, offering an excuse to barbecue and drink beer.  We have forgotten the origins and true meaning of this day.  Towns used to have parades and ceremonies remembering ALL of those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, their life, for their country, the United States of America!  They died for our freedoms, something I think too many of us take for granted today, me included!

So, I would like to offer the story behind Decoration Day, as it was once called, and some statistics of the loss of life for our freedoms in hopes of reinvigorating some true patriotism and pride for our country, the United States of America!

My favorite origin story of Decoration Day (Memorial Day) as there claim to be many (see above Decoration Day link) comes from one of my favorite books Mrs. Sharp's Traditions: Nostalgic Suggestions for Re-Creating the Family Celebrations and Seasonal Pastimes of the Victorian Home by Sarah Ban Breathnach.  It goes like this.

            Let us return to Columbus, Mississippi, in the spring of 1866. The Civil War has been over for a year, yet Union soldiers still occupy the town. The fires of passion and prejudice that had consumed over 500,000 American lives between 1861 and 1865 still smolder in bitterness behind closed doors.

Jut outside of Columbus is a cemetery where both Confederate and Union soldiers killed at the Battle of Shiloh are buried. On April 25, 1866, four young women pay a visit to the cemetery to tend the graves of lost loved ones and decorate them with memorial garlands of flowers.

After decorating the Confederate graves, the women walk over to a small plot where forty Union soldiers are buried. Gently they scatter Southern Magnolia blossoms on the Northern graves. The news of this unselfish, compassionate gesture spreads quickly and touches everyone. Newspaper editorials praise this act of reconciliation and urge the nation to come together to mourn both "the Blue and the Gray."

Soon in many small towns all over the country, people were gathering at Civil War cemeteries and holding commemorative or "Memorial Day" services. Afterward, there would be parades led by a brass band, the volunteer fire brigade, and a review to honor America's veterans. Following the parade and patriotic orations, there would be a community picnic on the town common.

During the late 19th century, Decoration Day was a major American holiday and was celebrated with even more fanfare than Independence Day. This was because the Civil War had touched or altered nearly every one's life.

Ironically, however, even though the country came together in spirit to honor America's war dead, the North and South still managed to commemorate independently. In 1868, General John A. Logan, commander in chief of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic, a union veteran's organization), designated May 30 as Memorial Day, while the Daughters of the Confederacy held firm with the term Decoration Day and the date of April 26. Today, Memorial Day is recognized as a day of honoring all of those who fought wars and is legally observed on the last Monday in May.

(Source:  "Mrs. Sharp's Traditions" by: Sarah Ban Breathnach)

There were some excellent web sites for information concerning American military casualties but the one I found to be the most helpful was History  After review of his site and several other history sites I came up with a total of approximately 1,227,412 people who gave their lives in combat for this country!  That number does not include non-military people who died defending our freedoms, people who died while in the service of this country in a non-combat situation, those missing in action or those wounded in the service of their country.  That is the approximate population of San Antonio Texas!  They gave their lives for you and me to live freely in this country!  Many of them didn’t have to, they chose to!  They chose to.

What are you willing to do for our freedoms?!  Have you seriously thought about this?  Have you thought of all the people who have died in the service to this country?  What about their families and friends, the people who loved them and lost them?  So, again what are you willing to do for your freedom and the honor that comes with living in this country?

Are you willing to really learn your American history?  How about going above what the schools are teaching your children and teach them yourselves of our true American history?  What would it take for you to over flow with American pride?  Will you get out and vote this year, and honor those that gave their life for our right to vote?  Especially you women?  Do you have any idea what people like Susan B. Anthony did for us?!  I don’t ask these questions to chastise!  I ask them in hope of igniting a fire that grows and spreads.  I ask them because I was not taught my U. S. History!  I sat in a class bored out of my mind because I didn’t have a teacher that cared enough to inspire me!  To teach me to carry on the torch that so many before me carried!  My knowledge of U. S. history was and still is pathetic!  I was robbed of the opportunity to really learn about this great country that I was privileged enough to be born into!  I was not taught to be a patriot!  Patriotism is learned!  It is learned by educating ourselves and our children about our history.  It is never too late to learn about the history of this country.  We can learn from our mistakes as well as our successes.  We owe it to ourselves, our children and those who fought for our freedoms to learn everything we can about this great country and its origins!

And then, we need to act.  Because as Mark Twain says to Ben Franklin in the American Adventure Pavilion presentation, “My dear doctor, earlier you found John Steinbeck so inspiring, but he also sounded this warning.  "We now face the danger, which in the past has been the most destructive to the humans: Success, plenty, comfort and ever increasing leisure.  No dynamic people has ever survived these dangers."”  So, we need to thank our service men and women and their families for their sacrifices and all they do for this country.  We need to get out and vote in every election!  We can not sit back and be apathetic and lazy while a handful of people make the decisions in this country.  You have a voice use it!  We need to really learn what is going on and figure out what we truly believe!  Don’t be lemmings and follow the masses because everyone else is doing it!  Don’t let Hollywood and the media make your decisions for you!

God has called us ALL to greatness!  We are individuals, let’s act on that greatness and individuality by learning everything we can about the history or our country, the current events and issues at hand and make informed decisions and then take action.  Be a patriot!  Love your country!  Remember our veterans, active military personnel and all those lost in the service of this country.  Get a US flag and proudly display it.  Vote!  Find a Memorial Day and 4th of July parade to attend every year, even if it means driving a bit to get to it.  Listen to patriotic music.  And finally pray, pray and pray some more, pray for our leaders, for our service men and women, for their families, for veterans, and for patriotism to swell up in the heart of every American!

For you were called for freedom, brothers.  But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.
                                                                                    Galatians 5:13

Need some inspiration, check these out.

These sites list some excellent movies about American history they are quite eclectic and several of them overlap.  I’ve seen a lot of the movies and agree they are great movies and they will definitely inspire you.

I would add a few my personal favorites to those lists

Let music inspire some patriotism.

  • "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue" - Toby Keith
  • America -Neil Diamond
  • "Only In America" - Brooks & Dunn
  • "God Bless the USA" - Lee Greenwood
  • "Some Gave All" - Billy Ray Cyrus
  • “Born in the U.S.A." - Bruce Springsteen
  • "America, the Beautiful" - Ray Charles
  • "Travelin' Soldier" -The Dixie Chicks
  • America the Beautiful
  • America
  • My Country 'Tis of Thee
  • Battle Hymn of the Republic
  • God Bless America
  • God Bless the USA
  • Halls of Montezuma
  • The Stars and Stripes Forever
  • The Star-Spangled Banner
  • Yankee Doodle



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