The American tradition of Memorial Day began more than 100 years ago.
It was at the end of a brutal war, a war in which brother fought
brother and the best of friends became the worst of enemies. It
was the Civil War, one of the worst wars ever fought by the people
of this nation, and it was fought on our own soil. At the end of
this war, family members of the many soldiers slain in battle
would visit the grave sites of their fallen relatives or friends
and decorate their graves with flowers.
On May 5, 1868, General John Logan proclaimed this day a holiday
through his General Order no. 11. The day was entitled Decoration
Day. Decoration day was first observed on May 30, 1868. The
northern states celebrated this day every year, but the southern
states celebrated a day similar to this on a different day until
sometime after World War I.
In 1882, the name Decoration day was changed to Memorial Day, and
in 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be held
on the last Monday of May every year.
The modern celebration of Memorial Day is similar to the original
celebration, but today we have expanded upon the original idea.
Today, Memorial Day is a time of the year when people come
together to honor their close friends or relatives who have died.
It is still very much about honoring America's fallen soldiers,
such as in gatherings at places like the Arlington National
Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia to visit such moving memorial
tributes such as the tomb of the unknown soldier, which represents
"everyman" who with bold patriotism laid down their life for this
country. But in addition to this, Memorial Day is about
celebrating all people, all of our ancestors and forefathers who
have created the world we live in today, who have paved the long
road we walk down into the future. It is a day to celebrate and
thank all these people who died to create what we have today.
Many people travel to the graves of their dead relatives or
friends in cemeteries around the country to decorate their graves
on this national holiday.
This day of memorial is something engrained in our culture, and in
ó every culture of the world ó a tribute, to honor the people who
embodied the dreams and the passionate fire of an entire country.
The custom of placing flowers on graves is an old one that exists in
many countries. Today, almost everywhere around the globe, people
have a special day to honor not only those who gave their lives in
battle, but also family members and friends whom they wish to remember.
You don't have to believe in war, or support military action to
still honor our dead brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, friends and neighbors.
Eulogy for a Hero
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the Gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the mornings hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight,
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.