Sunday, May 28, 2023

Memorial Day Thoughts


Tomorrow, in the United States, it will be Memorial Day, the day we honor our heroes who died in military service.  This is a portion of a post I wrote for Memorial Day, 2012, updated for this year. 

Memorial Day. 
This day, sadly, has evolved into a major shopping event for many people, missing the element of what it originally stood for.  It is also thought of as the "unofficial" beginning of summer.  In my area of Binghamton, New York, the six (only five operating this year) carousels we are famous for open for the season, as do the lakes, and some other recreation areas.

But in memory of my late father, a veteran of World War II service in the Army Air Corp, and one who struggled with a service connected disability for the rest of his life, I will also take some time to honor his memory and those of other veterans I knew.  

This leads me to a discussion of how this holiday originated here in the United States.

Memorial Day, in my youth, was celebrated on May 30.  Today, it is observed on the last Monday of May, to allow many to have a three day weekend.

At one time, this holiday was called Decoration Day.

There are several versions of the origin of Memorial Day.  Some of the stories depend on if you were from the Federal side, or the Confederate side, of the United States Civil War (1861-1865.).  What the stories have in common is that Memorial Day, once known as Decoration Day, originated in a desire to honor the sacrifice of those who died in our Civil War.  The Library of Congress lists several stories.  Here are what are perhaps the two main origin stories:

Waterloo, New York considers itself the birthplace of Memorial Day, and has a federally recognized Memorial Day museum.  According to this story, Henry Wells, a local druggist, suggested a holiday in the fall of 1865 to honor the sacrifice of Civil War dead.  The idea gained traction, and the first Memorial Day was held on May 5, 1866.

But there are other stories. One takes place in Mississippi, a state late a member of the Confederate States of America.  As that story goes, many of the wounded of the bloody battle of Shiloh (1862) were taken to Columbus, Mississippi.  Columbus ended up with its Friendship Cemetery full of Civil War dead of both sides.  Eventually, the Federal dead were relocated to other area cemeteries.

According to Columbus, the first Memorial Day was held on April 5, 1866, as the women of Columbus decorated the graves of both Federal and Confederate soldiers buried in Columbus.

Mental Floss has more interesting perspectives on Memorial Day. 

Regardless of what the "true story" of Memorial Day is, I want to leave you with a modern, local story - the story of a family of a soldier from Pennsylvania lost in the Vietnam War. 

May your Memorial Day tomorrow, if you live in the United States,  be a meaningful one.


  1. ...yes, Waterloo claims the day!

  2. I'm surprised the origins of the holiday are murky. I thought most holidays had a pretty straightforward origin.

  3. Usual end of May the weather is pretty nice.
    Coffee is on, and stay safe.

  4. It serves as a reminder of sacrifice. Sadly, too many people use their drive to strive as a reason to take power instead of making life better.

  5. Wherever it started, I'm grateful for the opportunity and encouragement to remember!
    In tears from the story about the man and his son finally being reunited...


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