We used to call it decoration day, for it was a time of placing flowers and flags on the graves of America’s war dead. Later it became know as Memorial day to honor all those who have died in the service of their country.
The idea for a day of honor began with James Redpath, superintendent of Schools in Charleston, South Carolina. In the spring of 1865 he became very upset after a viewing a field of only partially buried union soldiers in nameless graves. He organized a memorial day that took place on May 2, 1865. Some ten thousand people participated honoring the dead from both the North and the South.
Three year later, in 1868, the man who most historians credit with starting memorial day, General John Alexander Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, declared May 30 as “Decoration Day”.
As it must, even the memory of Memorial day celebrations change with each generation. A few, but not many, can remember years ago when the bent and grizzled veterans of the Civil war were treated to places of honor at the head of every small town parade.
Then came the Spanish American War Veterans, then World War One and World War Two. Today Korean and Vietnam War Veterans are the new senior citizens of Memorial Day Parades. It time it will be the Gulf wars one and two and Afghanistan, to say nothing of the many clandestine operations of honor that took American lives, but left no legacy or information. If no American dies in war from this time on, then the number of those we honor this Memorial Day Weekend for having died in America’s wars, starting with the revolutionary war, will stop around 2-million, 768-thousand 103.