Take time to remember on Memorial Day

Published 4:13 pm Wednesday, May 21, 2003

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP - Managing Editor
This weekend, families, friends and communities across our nation will congregate to celebrate Memorial Day. For many, the holiday this year has taken on a new meaning as they now know what it is like to fear for the safety of a loved one who is fighting in an armed conflict.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are varied stories about its beginning, with over two dozen cities and towns said to be the birthplace of Memorial Day.
There is some evidence that points to organized women's groups of the South who decorated graves before the end of the Civil War. But, in May 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y. the official birthplace of Memorial Day.
It's difficult to prove the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings.
The first Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I - when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.
But now the holiday is an American staple, celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May. That day became the official holiday of Memorial Day when it was passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act, P.L. 90 – 363, in 1971 to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays.
Although several southern states have an additional holiday for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis' birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.
After events of the past several years, it seems that Memorial Day is more important than ever. To take time to remember those who fought and died for our nation's causes is something we often take for granted. In December 2000, President Bill Clinton passed a resolution asking Americans to re-educate themselves about Memorial Day by offering a "Moment of Remembrance." Part of a memorandum signed by Clinton read as follows:
Let us all take a moment this Memorial Day to remember and thank those who fought and died for the American way of life. These soldiers gave their lives for our freedom, the least we can do is give them a few moments of our own time.