What happened to Decoration Day?
When I was very young, I remember families making an annual trek to the local cemetery to decorate the graves of relatives and friends who passed away while in the service of their country. It was always a solemn occasion, accompanied by heartfelt emotion, remembrance and prayer. This event dates back to the years following the Civil War, when women’s groups from the south began decorating the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers. By proclamation of General John Logan,commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, the first Memorial Day was observed at Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868, to honor both Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the war. The annual observance was to occur on May 30th of each year.
In their infinite wisdom, the US Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971, which changed the date of observance to the “last Monday of May,” thus creating a three-day weekend. Since the passage of that congressional act, celebrations, parades, and the graveside traditions of the day have all but disappeared. Although the entire day is considered a holiday, officially this has been reduced to a National Moment of Remembrance, per resolution passed in 2000. The resolution basically asks all Americans “to voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment [defined in the resolution as one minute] of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.” In its 2002 Memorial Day Address, the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) stated, “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.” And I agree.
So, here we are one week away from this national holiday. I challenge you to find a meaningful way to honor and respect those who have fallen in service to our country. These men and women sacrificed everything for us, can’t we give back a little time to remember them and what they did?
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)