The History of Memorial Day

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye's Heights (the Luminaria Program). And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.

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Filed under: * Christian Life / Church LifeParish MinistryDeath / Burial / Funerals* Culture-WatchHistory* Economics, PoliticsDefense, National Security, Military

Posted May 28, 2012 at 6:59 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. BlueOntario wrote:

Before our Cub Scout pack marched in our town Memorial Day parade I spoke to them that this parade is not about the start of summer. I asked them if they had seen any movies about soldiers or read stories or played games. I told them this day had it’s origins with the Civil War when young men left home and got sick or killed and never got to come back to their mothers and fathers and families and farms. That today young men still go off to war and many don’t come back or come back hurt and that during today’s parade we can have fun, but we need to remember the boys who never came home so that we can enjoy our summers in freedom.

May 28, 3:35 pm | [comment link]
2. BlueOntario wrote:

And with that on May 30th I’ll be visiting cemeteries and paying my respect, especially remembering a college friend of mine who gave his last full measure of devotion to his countrymen 1 September 2003 in Iraq.

May 28, 3:40 pm | [comment link]
3. Br. Michael wrote:

I wonder if anyone placed any flags on the 3,000 graves of the Confederate soldiers who died in the Elmira prison camp in New York?  With a death rate of 25% it ranks second to the 29% death rate of Andersonville.

May 28, 7:33 pm | [comment link]
4. magnolia wrote:

no. 3 probably not. to the victors go the revisionist history. it’s not pc to honour the confederate dead.

May 29, 1:36 am | [comment link]
5. BlueOntario wrote:

This tangent confuses me because I’m not sure who is revising who’s history. Help me think this one through: How is placing small Stars and Stripes over their graves honoring men who died fighting for the independence of the Confederate States of America?

As far as I know, no one has ever handcuffed or chased away UDC or SCV or even SUV members or Union or Confederate reenactors who have payed their respects to those fallen men. And IIRC, most states from whence those men came have chosen other dates to decorate the graves of their fallen heros or otherwise remember them.

May 29, 8:01 am | [comment link]
6. Br. Michael wrote:

I would suggest placing the third flag of the Confederacy by the grave stones.  As a Floridian I placed them on the graves of the 40 Florida dead at Elmira, and I am sure that they were removed in 24 hours, but mostly the Confederate dead are buried in private cemeteries and honored privately.  Very few Confederates are buried in National Cemeteries.  So far as I know it is not part of Memorial Day observances to officially remember the Confederate dead.

I remember Pvt. Andrew Roberts, 11th Fla. Inf.  wounded Petersburg, paroled Appomattox, buried Sopchoppy, Florida.

May 29, 10:14 am | [comment link]
7. magnolia wrote:

no.5 imo they were americans behaving in exactly the same manner as previous americans did against the crown, they just weren’t successful at it. regardless, they were forced to stay in the union and therefore should be honored. i don’t know if you’ve watched any films but it’s not pc to favor the confederate side; i saw a program on pbs, that made a big deal of the infamous southern prison camp at andersonville but heard almost nothing about the yankee camps which were just as bad.

anyway, it’s natural that history is revised to favor the victors and this case is no different.

June 13, 12:14 pm | [comment link]
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