Memorial Day: Where It Came From and What It Means

I asked my daughter we why have Memorial Day and she replied it was to honor those that are serving our country. I reminded her that, although we should always honor those that have served or are currently serving our country, Memorial Day is to honor those that have died while serving our country. This seems to be a point that is lost or confused by many. Veterans Day honors those that have served and/or died in past wars; Memorial Day honors those that have died in past wars. Every day should be to honor our current soldiers, as well as their loved ones.

I also read a column by someone who has an educational background in history and they said,”The actual origins of Memorial Day are somewhat unclear.  Many different cities/towns claim to have started the holiday, so it is hard to determine when/where/how it started.” That is simply not true and I continue to wonder how much history that is taught today has either been twisted or forgotten, altogether.

Going back to a book from 1962, published by Collier’s Encyclopedia, here is what we find:

Memorial Day

May 30

“A day that honors soldiers is always one of mixed emotions.We are proud of the glory they have won,proud of the job they have done to keep us free. And we are sad that good men had to suffer and die.

Memorial Day was called Decoration Day when, on May 30, 1868, General John A. Logan, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued the order that, “…every post of the G.A.R. should hold suitable exercises and decorate the graves of their dead comrades with flowers.”

Memorial Day originally reminded us of those who died during the Civil War, a battle in which our countrymen fought each other, North against South, brother against brother, father against son. Those who died for the South and states’ rights were just as sure they were right as those who died for the North and the Union.

Today, Memorial Day, celebrated on May 30 in most states, honors the dead of all our wars.”

Now granted, a lot has changed since the early 1960’s. In addition to men, women are also soldiers, now. Attitudes towards “the glory we have won” are often very negative and many think there is no glory in anything our soldiers fight for. Likewise, there are many who are not “proud of the job they have done to keep us free.” And, unfortunately, there are even some who are not “sad that good men (and women) had to suffer and die.” Also, the holiday has been changed to be celebrated on a Monday to give us that yearned-for long weekend. It’s wonderful to spend time with your families and friends, to have a day off from work (some of us) and to “unofficially kick-off summer”, but sometimes I think moving some of our holidays to make a long weekend has detracted from the holiday, itself, and its true meaning. I’ve always joked that, if they ever move Independence Day from the 4th of July, to make it a long weekend, we’re in trouble.

Yes, times have definitely changed and not always for the better, in many cases. However, I won’t rant on about that. Suffice it to say, there are still many who don’t know the origins of Memorial Day and why we celebrate it. I hope I have helped to enlighten at least one person.

Meanwhile, we put up our huge American flag yesterday. It goes up for Memorial Day and stays up through Flag Day in June, Independence Day in July and comes down on November 12th, the day after Veterans Day. There may be some in our neighborhood who think that our 4’x6′ flag is obnoxious, but, thankfully, the majority, many of whom are current or retired military, don’t seem to mind…not that it would stop us from proudly displaying our flag….


On this day, we  are thankful for all those that died to protect our lives, country, and freedom and we honor them. As always, we are thankful for all our soldiers and their families and the sacrifices they have volunteered to make, every single day.

Here’s to the Heroes Who Never Came Home


About rebelwife

New England wife of a Southern man relocated back to Alabama.
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4 Responses to Memorial Day: Where It Came From and What It Means

  1. garden2day says:

    A great post. Yeah, I think moving the days made us less enthused and less tolerant of our patriotism. We lack that and I don’t understand it. I think it is because too many of us protest war and let politics dictate the selfless act of servitude. Here’s to all those who have given their lives for the freedoms we squander today and may we learn to appreciate what we have lost before it is too late.


    • rebelwife says:

      Part of the problem is having people in government that are apologists. We are following the world’s standards, rather than our own, American standards. While we are not a perfect nation and have definitely made our share of mistakes and bad choices, we are still one of the best nations on earth. If we continue down the path we’ve been traveling for the last 10-15 years, that will no longer be true, assuming it even still is.


  2. Lynn says:

    Thanks Julie. I am going to read your post to my kids at “school” today. I want them to really know and understand what a blessing it is to live in this country.


    • rebelwife says:

      Thank you for stopping by, Lynn, and for sharing this with your kids. Even when my children were too young to understand, I would take them to Memorial and Veteran’s Days events, etc., to make sure they knew that there were and are real people who fight for all the things many of us now take for granted. It’s up to each generation to teach the next, especially when so many who fought for us are passing on. Have a wonderful day!


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