On May 26, 2014 millions of Americans will celebrate or pay tribute on Memorial Day, but one Navy war veteran is bemoaning the fact that many of them will not even know why they have the day off from work. And they will not know that the holiday was originally celebrated on May 30, not the last Monday of the month of May. And that it used to be called Decoration Day, originally commemorated to honor those Confederate and Union soldiers who died in the Civil War by decorating their graves.
But in 1971 the holiday date was changed, and Al Peterson believes the date needs to be changed back again. Peterson says that Gen. John Logan first directed that dead soldiers be paid tribute on May 30, almost 150 years ago, in 1868, "for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country..."
But now the somber holiday that is supposed to recognize servicemen who paid with their lives in order to protect our freedoms has become a holiday centered on "sales at the mall and barbecues. And drinking," Peterson told the Baltimore Sun.
And that's why the Navy war veteran, along with others in the Committee to Restore Memorial Day, is lobbying Congress to try and have the holiday once again scheduled for May 30, the original date designated to honor fallen soldiers, and when flowers are typically in bloom to be able to be placed on those graves.
Honoring those who paid the ultimate price during the Civil War had grown by the 20th century to include honoring all those who have died during military service, according to the Register-Herald. Hence the name and date changes, which resulted by an act of Congress in 1971.
Visiting cemeteries to lay flowers or place flags is one way to mark the occasion and pay tribute, attending Memorial Day parades and functions that honor soldiers is another. And planting more than 4,000 flowers in advance of the holiday at the Kearney, NE cemetery is yet another, but Al Peterson says that far too many people will be eating barbeque, shopping at the malls and drinking alcohol instead, which is more about merrymaking than honoring the fallen.
And he thinks it is because they don't understand what this holiday stands for and why (and how) it should be remembered and honored.
You don't celebrate Memorial Day. It's a day to pay honor to all the men and women who died for our freedoms," the Navy war veteran said.
Interestingly, while Decoration Day was originally more of a Union soldier honoring practice, according to the Christian Post, the claim has been made according to the news agency that the first Civil War soldiers grave was decorated in Virginia on June 3, 1861. However, they also report that there is authentic documentation that Savannah, Ga. women actually took part in decorating Confederate soldiers' graves in 1862.
Regardless of whether you hail from the North or the South, or whether you honor fallen soldiers on the last Monday of the month or May 30, or even whether you place flowers or flags on the graves of those who served, you should at least stop and give thanks that a soldier was willing to die in order that you could enjoy the freedom to spend this Memorial Day with your family and friends.