by Kelleigh Nelson
“Naturally, the common people don’t want war … but after all it is the leaders of a country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country.” Hermann Goering-leading member of the Nazi Party
There are only two holidays a year that bring me to tears. The first is Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) and the second is Independence Day, July 4th. Last July I wrote an article entitled Real Americans. I told of the loss and heartbreak I felt when I saw the flags waving and heard the firecrackers. The loss of what we once had and what we have become is overwhelming. The same feeling is present with Decoration Day.
Decoration Day started with a commemoration to the fallen Union soldiers of the Civil War. In the south, southern ladies’ groups commemorated the fallen on different days than the holiday of the north. However, by the 20th century, all American soldiers who had fallen in war were remembered on the last Monday in May, although originally May 30th. Decoration Day meant placing flowers on the graves of the fallen, but soon became a memorial for all family members who had passed. Today, those who know the real meaning of the holiday visit the cemeteries not only to decorate the graves of fallen American soldiers, as well as those who served our country, but also to remember our deceased ancestors.
Decoration Day was officially changed to Memorial Day by Federal law in 1967. On June 28, 1968, the Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30th date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. This has no doubt changed the tenor of the Remembrance Day into one of a spring-into-summer three-day weekend holiday, which has caused the solemn honor of the original commemoration to be lost. Japanese Nisei, Daniel Inouye, Hawaii’s Senator, and a WWII veteran had tried every year to return the holiday to May 30th.
The Memorial Day flag is to be raised briskly to the top of the pole at dawn and then lowered to half-mast until noon. This is done in remembrance. At noon, the flag is again raised to the top of the pole for the remainder of the day.
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