Today is Memorial Day. It is the day officially set aside to honor those men and women who have died in service to our nation.
While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860’s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead.
On May 5, 1868, in General Order No. 11, Gen. John Logan giving his official proclamation that May 30,1868 would be designated as Memorial Day. On that day, flowers were placed on the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery.
Before that, though, what we now know as Memorial Day had its beginnings in Friendship Cemetery in Columbus, Miss.
There, in April, 1866, the ladies and school children of Columbus wanted to observe “Decoration Day” when flowers would be placed on the graves of 2,194 Confederate soldiers and one Confederate nurse.
The story is told — and documented in the archives of the Columbus Dispatch newspaper — that the wives and mothers and daughters, as they placed flowers on the dead of Confederate fallen, noticed the graves of 54 Union soldiers.
Knowing they would want their loves to not die faraway from home with no one to care, they placed flowers on the Union graves as well.
Decoration Day became a tradition that was picked up by other cities, was renamed Memorial Day and became a national holiday early in the 20th century, observed on the last Monday in May to honor any American lost in war..
Today, there will be observances of varying degree across the nation, from the huge gathering in Washington, DC to communities such as Thomasville, N.C. and Bogalusa, La. — where communities gather for parades and somber observances in memory of those who served, but are no longer among the living.
Here at home, the Pilot Club of Tarboro has taken responsibility to ensure our fallen are not forgotten. At 3 p.m. today at the memorial on the Town Common, there will be an official observance of the National Moment of Remembrance, which will be followed by a flag ceremony conducted by the Tarboro High School JROTC, including the playing of “Taps.”
The observance will also take place inside Piggly Wiggly, as store owner Kenny Honeycutt asks his employees and customers alike to remember those who made the supreme sacrifice.
At 3 p.m., all citizens are to pause and cease all activities by observing a moment of remembrance for one minute. It can be a simple gesture, such as placing your hand over your heart, bowing your head or offering a prayer.
While the Moment of Remembrance is not designed to replace any Memorial Day activity, but rather help educate Americans about the meaning of Memorial Day.
The Moment of Remembrance had its beginnings in 1996, when Carmelia LaSpada, founder of No Greater Love, met a group of schoolchildren touring Washington, DC. She asked them what Memorial Day meant to them and they responded, “That’s the day the pool opens.”
That response directly led to the creation of the National Moment of Remembrance on Memorial Day. In 2000, No Greater Love asked Congress to officially establish the National Moment of Remembrance, to ensure the sacrifices of the dead of all our wars, conflicts, training accidents and the thousands who have died as a result of war’s emotional wounds are remembered.
Today, let’s give pause to remember our men and women who gave their all. While they were all soldiers or sailors or airmen or Marines, they were also a sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers.
They fought for our freedom and they deserve our respect and undying gratitude.
(John H. Walker is editor and publisher of The Daily Southerner. He can be reached at 823-3106 or editor @dailysoutherner.com)