Memorial Day; What Are We Memorializing?
What is Memorial Day and why do we celebrate it with BBQ’s, picnics, family gatherings and visits to cemeteries to decorate graves? Many of us out there celebrate this annual festivity but how many truly understand the significance of Memorial Day and all that it stands for? How many can say they understand the historical significance of this much enjoyed three day weekend?
Memorial Day is celebrated on the Last Monday in May, in 2010 it falls on Monday May, 31st. It was previously known as Decoration Day and it was intended to commemorate the men and women who have died for the United States in service of the military. It was initially enacted to honor the many Union Soldiers who had died during the Civil War. One fact about Memorial Day that probably is little known to the average American is that the very first Memorial Day was observed by freed blacks that had formerly been enslaved. It was celebrated at the Washington Race Course, now known as Hampton Park, in Charleston, South Carolina on May 1, 1865.
The Washington Race course had been turned into a prison camp in the last year of the Civil War and hundreds of soldiers died there. Former slaves spent the last two weeks in April burying the dead soldiers intending to give the soldiers who had fought so valiantly for their freedom a proper burial and service. Over 10,000 former slaves appeared on that May in 1865 to commemorate the soldiers and cause that meant so much toward ensuring their freedom. It became officially known as Memorial Day in 1882 and was made Federal Law in 1967.
After 1865 Memorial Day has continued to be a significant day to memorialize our fallen soldiers in the wars that have occurred since then. It is just as significant today as it was back then, the only difference being the people our soldiers are fighting for, the country they are fighting in and the people they are trying to liberate. According to the latest statistics posted on 4-26-10 we have lost 4,393 U.S. soldiers in the Iraq War, or Operation Enduring Freedom as some call it.
This year as you go to celebrate amongst your family and friends try to keep in mind the true meaning of this much celebrated holiday and all it stands for. It’s not only about hot dogs, steaks, beer and celebrating. It’s also a time to take a moment out of our lives to remember all of the soldiers past and present who have sacrificed their lives to fight for our freedom, and not only our freedom but the freedom and liberation for many oppressed people through out the world. It is a huge sacrifice to make for a country that one believes in with their heart and soul.
This is a copy of an article I wrote two years ago for Factoidz, now known as knoji