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Remember to remember on Memorial Day

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Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2011 5:03 pm

Memorial Day is an important holiday for Liberty County. One can and should visit the cemeteries, Liberty's War Memorial Stadium and its Monument on Grand Ave built by the Lions Club, and Dayton's Remembrance Garden and the memorial at the intersection of SH 146 and US 90.

Memorial Day, Mon., May 30, is the day to honor and remember those who died while serving in the Armed Forces.

Every cemetery contains veteran head stones from every conflict and war. It is a history lesson when one reads the stones while walking the rows. Every conflict onward from the Republic of Texas is memorialized in our cemeteries.

Take your children or grandchild to place a flower or two or a small flag on those graves and explain to them the history. Paying homage is the true meaning of Memorial Day and it will make a lasting impression on them.

While you are visiting, show them the stones of your parents, grandparents, and other relatives or other friends, explain your family history and share your memories. This will keep them alive in the present memory.

In 1868 Union Generals John Murray and John A. Logan are credited with establishing Decoration Day by decorating graves of Civil War soldiers. General Murray organized the first observance in Waterloo, N.Y., on May 5, 1866. In 1868 as Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, General Logan promoted the practice nationwide, calling for a national decoration day.

May 30 was chosen since it was not the anniversary of any Civil War battle. In 1871 Michigan became the first state to designate Decoration Day an official state holiday.

Shortly after this, the Women's Relief Corps, over 100,000 members strong, annually decorated the seventy-three national cemeteries, mostly in the south, and the Gettysburg and Arlington National Cemeteries.

By 1890 people celebrated Memorial Day, a term first used in 1882, an occasion for veterans, politicians and ministers to commemorate the war with ceremony and speeches. The name Memorial Day did not become common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967.

Freedman held the first Decoration Day in the South in Charleston, South Carolina in 1865. On May 1, at the site of a mass grave for Union soldiers from a prison camp, a crowd of up to ten thousand, mainly black residents, proceeded to the location for events that included sermons, singing, and a picnic on the grounds, thereby creating the first Decoration Day-type celebration.

Beginning in 1866 the Southern states had their own Memorial Days, ranging from April 26 to mid June. Columbus, Miss., held a celebration for Union and Confederate dead on April 25 in 1866.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis's birthday, June 3, became a state holiday in ten states by 1916. Southerners, mainly women, formed associations to care for cemeteries and sponsored impressive monuments as a permanent way of remembering the Confederate tradition including Stone Mountain in Georgia.

After World War I, the day's meaning was expanded to include all military campaigns, not just the Civil War. On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill that took effect in 1971, creating three convenient three-day weekends, including Memorial Day.

The Texas Legislature approved the legislation on May 14, 1969, making Memorial Day the last Monday in May in 1971. All states followed suit.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War advocate returning to the original date of May 30. They contend that this change "undermined the very meaning of the day, . . . creating the public's nonchalant observance".

The day indeed has become an occasion for more general expressions of memory, a day to visit graves of relatives, a day for family barbecues, fireworks, music events, vacationing, and the Indianapolis 500 since 1911.

Women and men who served and died for our country while in service should be remembered not only on Memorial Day, but everyday. Have a safe and wonderful holiday.

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