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Monday, May 25, 2015

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Interesting Facts of Memorial Day

Interesting Facts  Of Memorial Day

Americans have gathered in the late spring for almost 150 years to honor the sacrifice of those brave souls who have served our beloved country. It began as dozens of informal commemorations for those killed in the Civil War and has become one of the nations most solemn as well as hallowed holidays. Originally known as "Decoration Day", our modern day Memorial Day has some interesting bits of history and tradition.

It wasn't until the 19th century that the first commemorative events were held in the United States. But, the practice of honoring those who have fallen goes back thousands of years. The Greeks and Romans would hold annual days of remembrance for their loved ones. This included soldiers and they would festoon their graves with flowers as well as holding festivals in their honor. In Athens it was common for public funerals to take place for fallen soldiers after each battle. They would display the remains of the dead for public mourning. In 431 B.C. the first recorded public tributes to war dead occurred when the Athenian general and statesman Pericles delivered an oration praising the sacrifice and valor of those lives lost in the Peloponnesian war. Some have said this speech was comparable to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

General John A. Logan, in May of 1968,  the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans' group ( The Grand Army of the Republic) issued a decree that May 30th should become our national day of commemoration of fallen soldiers. This was called Decoration Day and Americans were encouraged to lay flowers on the graves of the fallen from wars. Legend has it the date of May 30 was chosen because it didn't fall on the anniversary of any Civil War battles but it's been debated it was chosen to insure flowers would be in bloom throughout the country. Today, Washington, D.C.'s Logan Circle and several townships throughout the nation are named in honor of this champion of veterans and those that were killed in battles. This national holiday has since been assigned to the last Monday in the month of May.

It was believed that Logan probably felt the influence for these traditions from the Southern states. Prior to the end of the Civil War several women's groups were informally gathering to decorate the gravesites of the Confederate deceased. The Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus resolved in April of 1886 that they would honor the fallen annually. Some would say this decision is what influenced John Logan, his own wife would also be amongst those. Although in the South these commemorations were rarely held on any consistent day as each state would have it's own day of observance. This tradition continues today as there are 9 southern states that recognize a Confederate Memorial Day. Events are held on the the Confederate President Jefferson Davis's birthday which is also the day in which General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson was killed.

It wasn't until World War 1 that "Decoration Day" was used to commemorate all those whom served in all wars. Memorial Day was not officially recognized until 1971 as America was deeply embroiled in the war with Vietnam.

More than 20 different towns in America call themselves the "birthplace" of Memorial Day but one town in particular is federally recognized. The greatest rivalry has long been between Boalsburg, Pennsylvania and Carbondale, Illinois. Boalsburg bases it's claim on a gathering women who were morning their most recently killed at Gettysburg in 1864. Carbondale states they first due to a parade held in 1866. It was said John Logan himself assisted with this parade. In addition there are dueling towns in Mississippi and Georgia that have been going back and forth for decades. However, in 1966 the town of Waterloo in New York closed it's businesses for the day and took to the streets for the first continuous, community-wide celebration. It was President Lyndon Johnson that declared and signed into legislation that Waterloo be the "official" birthplace of Memorial Day.

The evolution of the traditions of this holiday are vast and ever changing but some things are still at the core of this day of remembrance. The American flag should always be hung at half-staff until noon then raised to the top of the staff. In 2000 it was passed in U.S. Congress, all Americans are encouraged to pause to have a National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m. local time. This holiday has been used to acknowledge and honor non-veterans such as the Lincoln Memorial which was dedicated in 1922. We have even incorporated the Indianapolis 500 as it this marks the 102nd time the race has coincided with the holiday.

All in all we've seen Memorial Day metamorphosize from it's early, quiet beginnings to being a national day of remembrance. We here at Cactus Tactical salute all whom have served and continue to serve this fine country. We are truly grateful Americans.

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