Memorial Day 2013
“To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan.” –Abraham Lincoln
In May of 1868, three years after the American Civil War, a day was set aside to honor those who had fallen in battle fighting to preserve a way of life; a day of remembrance we have come to call Memorial Day. Originally dubbed “Decoration Day” by Major General John Logan, of the Grand Army of the Republic, it was thought that the thirtieth day of the month of May was chosen so that flowers would be in full bloom for decorating the graves of soldiers. Although similar ceremonies existed throughout grieving communities in both the North and South prior to the official day that Memorial Day was said to have commenced, Lyndon B. Johnson made it official in 1966. Like many other traditions, most notably Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas (not being exempt), its purpose has become somewhat obscured over the years. People tend to dwell on the release of a day off, barbeques in the back-yard, steaks and burgers on the grill, gatherings of family and friends, and few if any, travel to graveyards, mausoleums, cemeteries, or memorials, to place fresh flowers on the graves of veterans, or even take a moment out of the day to think about those who had died in battle, or who had put their lives at risk so that their families, friends and neighbors could enjoy the freedom that many have taken for granted.
The Civil war was the first war in the world to involve a civilian population in its horror. Advancments in weaponry, the gattling gun, and artillery, brought the battle to new dimensions that expanded into cities, towns and hamlets and not just garrisons. The larger contributor being the developing policies of the leaders to demoralize the populations’ resistance to fight. Here the strategy for the South was simple, to hold on until the North got fed up with war, its excessive costs, and loss of life. It had already established an economic advantage in shifting the trade route cuting out New England, and dealing directly with European markets. Lincoln became the model strategist in directing his generals not to merely push the southern insurgonists back across its borders but to drive deep into its territory pursuing and destroying them. Sheridan’s destructive march to the sea was not the whim of a tyranical general intent on mass destruction, but the policies established by the commander in chief of our armed forces, the president himself, to demoralize and defeat the recalcitrant southern states. New estimates have come to light which increase the death toll of Union and Confederate losses to be roughly 750,000; there were 23,000 men killed at Gettysburg alone, rivaling Waterloo as one of the bloodiest battles in history.* The largest loss of life of any world war at that time. The enormous effect of this immense loss of life affected numerous American families on both sides of the border. Thus bringing about a need to recover, re-unite, and adhere to the promise of a president of a healing nation: To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan, and with it a need to remember their sacrifice.
Today, the weapons of mass destruction available to countries and terrorists organizations proliferates a substantial need for a strong, professional army made up of its citizenry, guided by a sage civilian commander in chief, who remembers what this day is all about—not just the dead, father, mother, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, son or daughter lying in a shallow grave in Arlington National Cemetery, or some other plot; it is a given that each individual family will remember the loving relative, or friend that passed before his or her time—without commemorating a national holiday; Memorial Day is set aside to honor them and for what these brave citizens died. They died for us. They paid the ultimate price, gave their lives, so that those left behind can remain free—the least we can do for them is to take a few moments out of this day, to think about their sacrifice, the soldier, sailor, marine, airman, patriot, and those left behind grieving for them, and to remember their legacy —FREEDOM. God bless America!
*New York Times. Online Article. April 2, 2012.