Reflecting on the true meaning of Memorial Day
The history of Memorial Day, formerly called Decoration Day, is poetically rich across America where at least 24 towns claim to be the birthplace of this American tradition to honor the men and women who have given their lives as the final sacrifice while serving in the armed services of our country.
One such patriotic claim comes from Boalsburg, Penn., in the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains. In October 1864, Emma Hunter and her friend Sophie Keller gathered garden flowers to place on the grave of her father Reuben, a Union Army surgeon who had died on Sept. 19 in Annapolis, Md., of typhoid. On the same day, Elizabeth Weaver Myers brought flowers for her son Amos’ grave. Private Amos Myers had fallen at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. These three women also put flowers on the graves of other soldiers in this precious cemetery. They agreed to meet on July 4, 1865, to once again honor the dead soldiers in this cemetery.
They met on that 1865 date with the entire town of Boalsburg gathered to hear clergyman Dr. George Hall preach in honor of the sacrifices of these soldiers from the Civil War, War of 1812 and the Revolutionary War. Each grave was decorated with flowers and flags. Thus, every year the community of Boalsburg and neighboring towns adopted this practice to honor their war dead.
On May 29, 2000, an Honors to the Fallen original bronze sculpture was dedicated to commemorate this historic Memorial Day event with three women honoring the fallen soldiers. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by Gen. John Logan, National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
Two years before Gen. Logan’s proclamation, on May 5, 1866, the civic societies of the village of Waterloo, New York, joined in procession to three local cemeteries and held services with speeches by Gen. John B. Murray and local clergy. These caring citizens honored the graves of the Civil War dead with wreaths, bouquets and crosses. Waterloo was decorated with flags at half mast and draped with mourning black streamers and evergreen boughs.
In May 1966, through United States Congressional action, Waterloo became recognized as the “Birthplace of Memorial Day.” In addition, this caring community created a Memorial Day Museum with artifacts from the Civil War era and the first Memorial Day activities in 1866. The efforts of the entire community to honor those who have given their lives for our freedoms are solemn and precious for all who attend.
To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the National Moment of Remembrance Resolution was passed in December 2000 which asks all Americans at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to taps."
In 2012, every day should be a day of thanksgiving for all the brave men and women who willingly serve and who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to make the world safer. God Bless America!