"Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices." — Harry S. Truman
Longer and warmer days are fast approaching. As school is letting out, the upcoming three-day weekend signals the shift from spring to summer. But there is so much more to this extra day off than barbecues and sunburns.
This Monday, May 29, is a day steeped in history to remember those who died in service to the United States of America as we recognize the federal holiday that has come to be known as Memorial Day.
After the Civil War ended in 1865, there was a desire in communities across the country to pay tribute to those who had died in the conflict, as roughly 620,000 people had been killed. Many cities began holding their own springtime gatherings to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with wreaths and flowers.
General John A. Logan, a founder of a veterans group of Union Civil War veterans, first issued an official day of remembrance in 1868. The General Order No. 11 called for a nationwide day to honor the Civil War dead.
“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” Logan proclaimed. Then called Decoration Day, the date of May 30 was chosen because it wasn’t an anniversary of any battle. Eventually becoming known as Memorial Day, what originated as a day to honor the Civil War dead, came to be in remembrance of all American military personnel who died in all wars.
In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Uniform Holiday Bill that grouped several federal holidays into three-day weekends, Memorial Day being one, and is now celebrated on the last Monday in May each year.
Veterans Day, which is celebrated on November 11 each year, is often confused with Memorial Day. Veterans Day started after World War I and is a day to honor all service men and women regardless of whether they served in wartime or died in battle. On Veterans Day, we thank those who have and are serving our country. “(Memorial Day) is for our brothers and sisters who made the ultimate sacrifice and have passed on,” explained Dan Brown, the American Legion department commander for the state of North Dakota.
The American Legion will be hosting a Memorial Day ceremony at Riverview Cemetery in Williston on Monday, May 29. Members of the highschool band will be performing patriotic music at 10:45 a.m., with the ceremony starting at 11 and consisting of a Vietnam veteran pinning ceremony, wreaths placed at the memorials, a speaker as well as the speaking of the names of the deceased in the past year.