To the editor:
I am a retired Army officer and a historian by academic training. As the Memorial Day weekend approaches, my thinking has turned to its meaning.
A national Decoration Day was originally proposed and promoted by the Grand Army of the Republic. The original day set aside was May 30. The day was officially renamed Memorial Day in 1967. It only became “the last Monday in May” by an act of Congress in 1971.
I remember as a kid, traffic in my hometown stopped at noon on Decoration Day. Flags were presented at a major intersection on Main Street. We remembered those who had died, much as the originators had intended.
Since the date became “the last Monday in May,” Memorial Day has largely lost its significance as a commemoration day and has become just the gateway to summer. Even advertising banners have morphed away from “Memorial Day” to “Memorial Sale.”
We, the recipients of immeasurable benefits of their sacrifices, should take a few minutes over the Memorial Day weekend to remember our forefathers, our comrades, who preceded us.
Veterans Day – originally Armistice Day – was established to commemorate those who died in World War I. Veteran’s organizations successfully fought to have that day restored to its historic date – Nov. 11 – after an attempt to make it, too, a Monday holiday. Perhaps we need a groundswell of opinion to return Memorial Day to its historic roots.
In any case, I ask you to take a few minutes to remember what the “Memorial” part of Memorial Day weekend is all about.
I’m climbing off of my soapbox now.