Memorial Day: Its profound meaning

Paul Butler - Guest columnist

“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy, forget in time that men died to win them.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Since May 5, 1868, when Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), issued General Order 11, calling for a nationwide day of remembrance on May 30th that year and forward, there has been one day a year set aside to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of liberty.

Whether you call it “Decoration Day”, as it was originally known, or “Memorial Day” as federal law established in 1967, the meaning and purpose remains the same as it did then: “… cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead.”

As with most U.S. holidays, many traditions are synonymous with Memorial Day. The practice of decorating the graves of military personnel continues, but now it includes putting flowers/arrangements on the graves of other loved ones as well.

Speeches, parades, reunions and picnics are still a mainstay; but the unofficial first day of summer and a three-day weekend are relatively new. Some are solemn commemorations and others are festive gatherings.

One solemn tradition that may not be as well known — even though it is codified in Chapter 1, Title 4 of the United States Code — is the practice of lowering the U.S. flag to half-staff from dawn until noon, then returning it to full staff until dusk on Memorial Day.

This act has a profound meaning: “The half-staff position remembers the men and women who gave their lives in service to their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.” [unknown].

All veterans and patriotic Americans must continue to celebrate the selfless service and remember the sacrifices made by soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and guardsmen.

We must continue the Memorial Day tradition, if Roosevelt’s statement is not to become fact.

“A nation that does not honor its heroes, will not long endure.” — Abraham Lincoln

“As I approach the gates of heaven; St. Peter I will tell; One more soldier reporting sir; I’ve served my time in hell.” — Mark Anthony Greswell.

Paul Butler is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and active in Clinton County veterans’ affairs.

Paul Butler

Guest columnist