Memorial Day weekend is now upon us and I'm at the end of my rope. Thankfully my parents and loved ones taught me the meaning behind holidays and due to a family over-researching habit it drives me batty to see them misused - but it drives my friends who are veterans and/or active duty even more over the edge.
This post may anger or upset some of you - don't shoot the messenger. This is about the TRUTH - even when it's painful and/or difficult to hear. We're going to cover the 5 major American Patriotic holidays today and when to celebrate and/or honor what. Fasten your seatbelts ladies and gentleman, some of you might end up a bit surprised by some of these.
On November 11, 1919 President Wilson declared the first Armistice Day, set aside at the time to honor the current surviving veterans of World War I and their efforts in preserving world peace.
In 1954 following World War II where nearly every family in the USA sent at least 1 loved one into harm's way the holiday was expanded to include all American veterans of all wars. The first "update" came on June 1 expanding the holiday to all veterans of all wars America had participated in and changing the wording from "Armistice Day" to "Veteran's Day". The second came on October 8th when President Eisenhower gave the first Veteran's Day Proclamation calling to "insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all
veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will
wish to join hands in the common purpose."
THIS is the holiday when we honor veterans who are living from all American Wars. We are also invited to honor veterans who have passed on who did not die in combat or as a result of combat related injuries.
In the wake of the attacks of September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush made an official proclamation on September 14, 2001 that September 11 would be a "National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for the Victims of the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001". Congress swiftly took action and on a law was in place by December 8th of that year. On September 2, 2002 the official proclamation by President Bush declared September 11 to be Patriot Day.
THIS is the holiday when we honor those who passed on September 11, 2001 in the terrorism attacks including the first responders who were killed. We are also invited to remember and pray for those who survived and for their health and well being.
On July 4, 1776 the Declaration of Independence was born but it's history and timing is far more complex than this one date in history. Starting on April 5, 1764 with the Sugar Act (The American Revenue Act of 1764) taxation on the 13 colonies began to rise.
By July 4, 1776 the American Revolution was already running with the banner flying high. Following the Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts had already wrecked massive economical devastation and the First and Second Continental Congresses had already met. General George Washington had already taken control of the Continental Army and Paul Revere's famous ride was a memory. The Battle of Bunker Hill was also already completed and Benedict Arnold was already proving one of the most useless men to lead in military history.
From July 1-4, 1776 Congress debated and revised the Declaration of Independence. On July 2 as a British fleet and army dock in New York, independence is officially declared by the Congress without the release of the final document. On the morning of July 4 the Congress officially adopts the document and permits the printing of 24 copies (the Dunlap Broadsides), only 2 are currently known to exist. On July 5 the President of the Congress, John Hancock, officially releases the document and begins dispatching it to New Jersey and Delaware.
The first public reading took place on July 8 and the stakes were upped on July 19 when Congress ordered the document engrossed (officially inscribed) and signed by it's members. Starting on August 2, 56 men committed high treason by signing their names to
the Declaration of Independence. The signers varied immensely in every
way possible including age (26-70) and background. Contrary to popular
current belief, these were not "simple men of a simple time" - they were
revolutionaries who had already undergone massive oppression by their
THIS is the day we celebrate our independence from Great Britain. It is also when we honor those who died to bring us our freedom in the Revolutionary War.
Up until September 17, 1787 America was a concept at best. She had no governing laws, no true and holding sense of who she was. States were consistently at war with each other passing laws that caused more problems than solutions.
The first attempt at a unifying document was back on November 15, 1777, the Articles of Confederation, was not ratified until March 1, 1781. America was officially declared but still well in strife as the American Revolution began to wind to a close. Following the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783 Great Britain withdrew her troops but what was left was a tattered and torn and very loosely formed union. We'd found freedom - we just really didn't know what to do with it yet.
Eventually something had to come or our union was going to end up dissolved. On May 14, 1787 the Federal Convention met in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation. Only 2 states were present at the time so all action was suspended until May 25 when delegates from 7 states (a quorum of over 50% of the states) had arrived. They toiled until September 17 when they reached a consensus and the Constitution of the United States was born. Later that day, the Bill of Rights would also be brought to the table.
The Constitution would not be ratified (adopted by all states) until June 21, 1788 and George Washington took office almost a year later on April 30, 1789.
THIS is the holiday when we celebrate the true founding of a cohesive country and the amazing and wonderful minds who brought us the American Constitution, a living document that has upheld the Republic for over 200 years. This is the day America came together and united and American Exceptionalism began to take root and thrive.
Of all the days, this is going to be the most controversial because it has become the most distorted of the bunch. By three years after the Civil War, local observances were being held to honor the dead on May 30 called "Decoration Day". The graves of those who fought and died during the war were decorated with flower. Many cities claim to have held the first ceremonies but Congress and President Johnson declared in 1966 that it was Waterloo, NY to have the official honor for their ceremony on May 5, 1866.
By the end of the century observances were held on May 30 across the country, honoring the sacrifice of those who paid the ultimate price for the unity of our country. It was not until after World War I that the remembrance was expanded to include those who perished in all American wars.
Memorial Day wasn't declared an official national holiday until 1971, over 100 years after the tradition began. This declaration also shifted it to the last Monday in May instead of the traditional May 30 date. The first official celebration was held at Arlington National Cemetery and the tradition of placing small American flags on the gravesites of those who died in combat was born.
Recent "adaptations" of remembering all loved ones who passed are actually against the founding and basis of this holiday. Remember them on their days of passing or for those of us who remember All Souls Day and All Saints Day this is the appropriate time for that honoring of life. Memorial Day is to honor American veterans who have paid the ultimate price for us to have our freedom during combat. It is not to remember "all veterans who have died" or "all people who have died".
In an effort to stem this tide of shifting focus on Memorial Day on December 28, 2000 President Clinton signed into law the National Moment of Remembrance, calling all Americans to pause at 3 PM local time on Memorial Day as a moment to remember those who gave all for our country. Many radio stations and television stations honor the moment by airing a recording of Taps and bowing heads in silence.
This Memorial Day, let us remember their sacrifice with honor and dignity, particularly at the time of 3 PM locally.
May God continue to bless America and all who have served her in every capacity. May we be blessed to know we have been honored with the opportunity to live in the greatest freedom ever given to mankind and may He gift us with the wisdom to keep our beautiful flag waving brightly over our country.