Memorial Day 2012

Today is Memorial Day. For me, it is a subtle reminder of the sacrifice of those made during the many wars, to which, our country was involved.


About 15 years ago, the firm I worked with at that time, had an opportunity to do work for the Philadelphia Korean War Memorial to create a memorial site near Penn’s Landing. My duties were insignificant, ensuring proper drainage, landscaping, etc. compared to the task of creating the memorial itself. I can tell you that this had a double meaning for me….


This past Friday, I received an email from my new boss detailing a few things I didn’t know about the Holiday. Portions of that email are listed below.

Did you know….

It started with remembering the fallen during the Civil War.

Memorial Day was a response to the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War, in which some 620,000 soldiers on both sides died. The loss of life and its effect on communities throughout the North and South led to spontaneous commemorations of the dead:

• In 1864, women from Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, put flowers on the graves of their dead from the just-fought Battle of Gettysburg. The next year, a group of women decorated the graves of soldiers buried in a Vicksburg, Mississippi, cemetery.

• In April 1866, women from Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. It was recognized at the time as an act of healing regional wounds. In the same month, up in Carbondale, Illinois, 219 Civil War veterans marched through town in memory of the fallen to Woodlawn Cemetery, where Union hero Maj. Gen. John A. Logan delivered the principal address. The ceremony gave Carbondale its claim to the first organized, community-wide Memorial Day observance. Watch the meaning of the holiday

• Waterloo, New York., began holding an annual community service on May 5, 1866. Although many towns claimed the title, it was Waterloo that won congressional recognition as the “birthplace of Memorial Day.”

It was first known as Decoration Day.

From the practice of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, the holiday was long known as Decoration Day. The name Memorial Day goes back to 1882, but the older name didn’t disappear until after World War II. Federal law declared “Memorial Day” the official name in 1967.

It was James Garfield’s finest hour.

On May 30, 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant presided over the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery — which, until 1864, was Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s plantation.

Some 5,000 people attended on a spring day which, The New York Times reported, was “somewhat too warm for comfort.” The principal speaker was James A. Garfield, a Civil War general, Republican congressman from Ohio and future president.

“I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion,” Garfield began, and then continued to utter them. “If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of fifteen-thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung.” It went on like that for pages and pages.

As the songs, speeches and sermons ended, the participants helped to decorate the graves of the Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

But most of all, it is a day that I remember my dad. He passed away in April of 2002. He would have been 82 this year.

He was a member of the Air Force and served during the Korean War. And he was proud to represent his country. I grew up every Memorial Day, Fourth of July, or any day that Red, White & Blue bunting was hung, we would be off to a parade that he would march as part of some organization like the National Guard or the VFW. To this day, there isn’t one instance of the national anthem being played that doesn’t stop me in my tracks, literally.

Now, I think it’s easy to say that Memorial Day is very personal for me. I beg those that may not have such a connection to at least pause…

And in 2000, Congress established a National Moment of Remembrance, which asks Americans to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. in an act of national unity. The time was chosen because 3 p.m. “is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday.”

About Kevin
Hi… I am a husband, father, brother and neighbor. I am employed as a Civil Engineer and have enjoyed playing the drums for the last 30+ years.

One Response to Memorial Day 2012

  1. Mark Mahovich says:

    Excellent article, Kevin. Well done. My mother passed in 2005, and this brought a tear to my eye.


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