General John A. Logan isn’t a name you don’t hear every day, but we certainly remember what he did. General Logan, originally from Illinois, is credited for being the driving force behind Memorial Day. “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, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.
Graves had been decorated for several years by local women’s groups, so General Logan’s idea wasn’t entirely unique. He felt that since the war had affected the entire nation, the entire nation should remember and mourn the deaths caused by the conflict.
The first nation-wide Decoration Day, as it was known then, was observed in Arlington National Cemetery. (On a personal note, I remember my dad calling the day “Decoration Day.” The name wasn’t officially changed until 1971.)
Although the original Memorial Day remembered the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars. Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery each year with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Traditionally, the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony each year. Now, all national cemeteries honor the fallen and have local ceremonies with varying traditions.
We live close to Leavenworth National Cemetery (and my husband’s family is buried in the cemetery next door), so we make an annual trip to lay flowers on the grave of a soldier who doesn’t have any. It’s our small way of thanking them for their service and of making sure we don’t forget.
May you have a wonderful day of remembering.