President Obama made a surprise visit to Afghanistan for this Memorial Day.
On FB, I’ve noticed a number of friends sharing this link.
KNOW YOUR HISTORY: Memorial Day was started by former slaves on May, 1, 1865 in Charleston, SC to honor 257 dead Union Soldiers who had been buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp. They dug up the bodies and worked for 2 weeks to give them a proper burial as gratitude for fighting for their freedom. They then held a parade of 10,000 people led by 2,800 Black children where they marched, sang and celebrated.
Thanks to Abstrakt Goldsmith for this nugget of history that most of us never learned in school.
Most won’t learn it because as far as the origins of Memorial Day goes, its not true (although this event did happen and is worth noting).
The first Memorial Day — then called Decoration Day — was celebrated May 30, 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War to honor the Union dead. Compared to a national population of 31.4 million in 1860, the Civil War dead, both Union and Confederate, are now roughly estimated at 750,000 and possibly more.
After World War I, the holiday commemorated all U.S. war dead. In 1971, Memorial Day became an official national holiday. “Historical Statistics of the United States (Millennial Edition)” lists war dead by conflicts as follows: the Revolutionary War, 4,435; the War of 1812, 2,260; the Mexican War, 13,283; the Spanish-American War, 2,446; World War I, 116,516; World War II, 405,399; the Korean War, 36,576; the Vietnam War, 58,200; the Persian Gulf War, 382. In addition, the Pentagon reports 6,809 deaths in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and related combat zones as of May 22.
For a history of how Decoration Day came to be, check out MataHarley’s post from last year.
For myself, I offer the following video tributes made in 2011 and 2010; but still relevant, I hope, in 2014:
Linked from WaPo, by Rye Barcott:
Memorial Day weekend doesn’t need to be a somber event for all. Naturally, it will be different for those families whose lives have been scarred by combat. But you don’t need to have experienced war to pay your respects.
So this Memorial Day weekend consider taking a half-hour to honor our war dead. Have a conversation with your children or your parents. Pause. Reflect. If you can make more time, visit a cemetery or take a child to a local parade, then talk to them about service. If you can’t travel, watch a Memorial Day concert or parade. Whatever it is, do something deliberate and out of your way.
Is it wrong to celebrate?
No, it’s not wrong. But it will be a far more meaningful celebration if it starts with recognizing why we have the opportunity to celebrate.