Under different circumstances, after different choices, it could have been me. It wasn’t, of course, or I wouldn’t be here to write this. And by accident or design, depending on what you wish to believe, I was never in the circumstances, probably as a result of some of my choices, where it ever might have been me. But there have been more than one million three hundred thousand United States service members who died while serving in our nation’s armed forces, more than half of them (counting both sides) in our own civil war. I have never seen the honor of serving my country under combat, so I was never in a situation where I could expect to be killed. I honestly can’t say how I would have behaved in combat, but I’ve always thought of myself as the kind of person who would sacrifice himself to make sure others survived a situation. Maybe we all do, I don’t know. But I do know that because of the sacrifices those million brave people made, I can enjoy the freedom and luxury of being able to sit in my own home writing this blog post, and you can enjoy the freedom and luxury of reading it. Our nation, by and large, doesn’t treat the brave men and women who serve to protect our country (simply by being the biggest bad-asses on the planet) well enough, and we remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice even less than we should.
The true origins of the holiday we’ve come to know as Memorial Day are in some dispute, partly because there isn’t general agreement on what is meant by “first,” and also by “holiday.” Many of you reading this blog (because many of you are Liberals like me) know of the first official ceremony to honor the war dead, known then as Decoration Day, and that it was started by African Americans in May 1865 (the month following the Civil War’s end) and is recounted by Snopes here. But as the article indicates, there is no evidence that this ceremony, wonderful as it was, had any influence on the decision by Major General Logan to hold an annual holiday. I wanted to confirm that story before posting it here as the official start of Memorial Day, but I couldn’t find any mention of it on the History Channel website, the PBS website, or even the Department of Veterans Affairs website. I wonder why that is. The Charleston, South Carolina, ceremony was certainly the first observation of Decoration Day, and its purpose was largely similar to that of today’s Memorial Day (though it was restricted to remembering the Civil War dead.) But why it’s not credited with being the first Memorial Day is unknown. Instead, Congress declared that Waterloo, NY, was the site of the first Memorial Day observance (though other places claim the title, too.)
The important thing is not how it began but that it continue. You owe the freedom you still enjoy today to them. Remember them.
Here are some pictures my wife posted last year. Please enjoy a safe and happy holiday celebration. And if you see a veteran among the parade goers today, it wouldn’t hurt to stop and thank them for their service to our country. I promise you that inside it can really help make them feel their sacrifices are worthwhile.
World War I Memorial, Washington, DC
This is our daily open thread. Feel free to spend time honoring the fallen close to you, or those who, as President Lincoln put it, gave the last full measure of devotion, or anything else you wish to discuss.