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The Decoration Day Difference MakerCoCo McCain Salem-News.com
"Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic." -- General Logan - May 5, 1868
(CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.) - Memorial Day was once known as Decoration Day. Early on, different states remembered the day on different dates. May 30th soon became the unified day of remembrance until 1968 when Congress acted to make the holiday a 3-day weekend and declared the last Monday of May as “Memorial Day.”
Viewing the holiday now and then, a lot more has changed than just the date, and it has given some cause for concern. I think I can understand why.
I’m a proud American. My grandfathers both served in the armed services. I even married a man that graduated from a Federal Military Academy and served as an officer in the Navy. I vote and hold very strong opinions about democracy and yet this morning … on our National Day of Mourning … I found myself ushering my children to the pool for a festive day of fun and bar-b-que. If you really examined our day, you would think we were celebrating the 4th of July, not a time to honor the lost and fallen.
For me, it really was not until I brought my littlest one home for a nap and some air-conditioning that I really stopped to reflect on all this day meant. And believe it or not, I had to do some on-line research to even understand what this day was intended to look like because I have never, ever seen it. So here is what the “history books” say the day used to look like … not so long ago …
“Memorial Day used to be a solemn day of mourning, a sacred day of remembrance to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Businesses closed for the day. Towns held parades honoring the fallen, the parade routes often times ending at a local cemetery, where Memorial Day speeches were given and prayers offered up. People took the time that day to clean and decorate with flowers and flags the graves of those the fell in service to their country.” SUVCW
Yes, I ‘ve watched PBS specials which have a semblance to the above-described, and yes, we talk to our kids about what this day means … but I am 38-years-old and I have only once witnessed, in real life, a day of mourning on Memorial Day like the one described above. And, what’s equally pathetic, is that I’ve only heard of one other person I know talking about an event resembling the above-mentioned. What used to be common place seems more and more rare.
I am too optimistic to think that the modern day “non-observance” is because we don’t care … but it definitely seems appropriate to ask whether or not we, as a nation, are getting dangerously close to “the vandalism of avarice or neglect” which General Logan spoke of over a century ago.
There’s nothing wrong with bar-b-que and certainly nothing wrong with family time, but there’s absolutely everything right about taking some time to think about bravery and sacrifice and the greatest love of all … giving up one’s life for another! Giving up one’s life for another: that’s a huge and an amazing concept, and maybe that’s the struggle. Perhaps our struggle’s not with observance, but with the enormity of the substance.
Either way, one US Senator feels the day has absolutely strayed too far from its roots and so year after year, Senator Inouye introduces a bill which would return the day to its original date in an effort to return it to its original purpose. His introductory remarks in 1999 were as follows:
"Mr. President, in our effort to accommodate many Americans by making the last Monday in May, Memorial Day, we have lost sight of the significance of this day to our nation. Instead of using Memorial Day as a time to honor and reflect on the sacrifices made by Americans in combat, many Americans use the day as a celebration of the beginning of summer. My bill would restore Memorial Day to May 30 and authorize our flag to fly at half mast on that day. In addition, this legislation would authorize the President to issue a proclamation designating Memorial Day and Veterans Day as days for prayer and ceremonies honoring American veterans. This legislation would help restore the recognition our veterans deserve for the sacrifices they have made on behalf of our nation." (1999 Congressional Record, page S621)
Senator Inouye is swimming upriver against the tide of a three-day weekend, and so far the bill has not made it above water, but I absolutely love that he is willing to stand up for what he believes in. If his bill passes, he will no doubt have a lot of angry constituents and countryman for “ruining” the three-day weekend, but he is not giving up and you have to love and respect that kind of determination.
Mr. Inouye, we applaud your efforts and hope to encourage you with the story of another Decoration Day difference maker. Take heart and keep the faith, remembering with hope that the Memorial Day poppies began with one woman, Ms. Moina Michael.
Ms. Michael was the first to wear the poppy, and she then sold poppies to her friends and co-workers to benefit servicemen in need. Now, we are a nation full of poppies: the poppies showing our deep Decoration Day roots. Ms. Michael says it best.
Join the conversation & find extra info about today’s Good Stuff article on the BLOG at www.COCOMCCAIN.com. Share “your story” with me & help me “shine a light” on the good things you see every day at COCO@COCOMCCAIN.com. I hope to hear from you soon — but between now and then may you LIVE…GIVE…and…GROW with all the good in life!
CoCo McCain grew up in central Florida and attended the Vanderbilt University School of Engineering. After graduating in 1995, she moved onto the Cumberland School of Law in 1998. In addition to her role as an attorney and writer, CoCo works with a translator so that her articles can also be enjoyed by a Spanish speaking audience.
CoCo presently resides in Chattanooga, Tennessee with her husband and a roost of beautiful children. She says she is your ordinary girl-next-door … but on that one November day in 2009, CoCo was given an extraordinary dream: "A dream to shine a light on all the good things that happen every single day! Everyday acts of love, bravery and generosity. Everyday acts of determination, kindness and triumph in the face of tragedy. The simple things that make life so rich and rewarding! The zest and marrow of life."
She says from the very beginning, the vision for her column The Good Stuff has been crystal clear: shine a bright light on the good in life because sharing the good has the power to touch lives around the world.
You can write to CoCo McCain at this address: TheGoodStuffDesk@cocomccain.com
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