On this Memorial Day weekend, we gather family and friends for picnics and barbecues. We hope for nice weather and good company, and there is nothing at all wrong with these activities and these hopes.
However, we should not forget the original and still timely purpose of what was first called "Decoration Day." Today, as throughout our history, men and women are placing their lives and bodies in harm's way so that we here at home remain safe and free. If we cannot actually decorate the graves of the fallen, we can stop in our activities to remember and silently thank those who did not come home. We can also take time to thank the living veterans for their high service.
We can remember the original purpose for this holiday:
Here follows an excerpt from the original proclamation of 1868:
Headquarters, Grand Army of the Republic Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868
The 30th day 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....
... All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the Nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and found mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten, as a people, the cost of free and undivided republic.If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation’s gratitude,—the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.
By command of:
JOHN A. LOGAN,Commander-in-Chief.
N. P. CHIPMAN,Adjutant-General.