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The Weekly News Source for Wyoming's Ranchers, Farmers and AgriBusiness Community

Not Just A Holiday

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

It is that time of the year in which we celebrate Memorial weekend, especially Memorial Day on Monday. I hope everyone celebrates for the right reason – to honor fallen soldiers who died serving their country.

I think most people these days have forgotten the true meaning of the weekend, and they use it as an excuse to take a long weekend, loaf around or go shopping at sales. 

For many, it is the official start to summer, which is alright since we’ve been dreaming about getting to Memorial Day all winter. While there are still numerous snowbanks around, we are happy to call it the beginning of summer.

Memorial Day was first called Decoration Day, and to honor fallen comrades, soldiers would decorate their graves with flowers, flags and wreaths. Although Memorial Day became its official title in the 1880s, the holiday wouldn’t legally become Memorial Day until 1967.

After the Civil War, Gen. John A. Logan, commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a holiday commemorating fallen soldiers to be observed every May 30. But, due to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which took effect in 1971, Memorial Day was moved to the last Monday of May to ensure a long weekend. 

Some groups, like the American Legion, have been working to restore the original date to set Memorial Day apart and pay proper tribute to the servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives defending the nation.

In December 2000, Congress passed a law requiring Americans to pause at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day to remember and honor the fallen. However, this doesn’t appear to be common knowledge, but if it is, by 3 p.m. most people seem to be too deep into a food and drink induced coma to officially observe the moment.

On May 30, 1868, James A. Garfield delivered a rather lengthy speech at the first Memorial Day ceremony before several thousand people at Arlington National Cemetery.

Garfield, a former Civil War general and current Republican congressman but not yet president said, “If silence is ever golden, it must be beside the graves of 15,000 men, whose lives were more significant than speech and whose death was a poem the music of which can never be sung.”

In addition to the national holiday, nine states officially set aside a day to honor those who died fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War. The days vary, but only Virginia observes Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of May, in accordance with the federal observance of Memorial Day.

Some reports say former slaves freed at the end of the Civil War were among the first to memorialize the fallen soldiers, according to the History Channel. Others contribute the start to a group of women who laid flowers on the graves of fallen soldiers in the same year.

Sometime this weekend, take a moment to pay respect for our fallen soldiers. They paid the ultimate price for our families and country.

There are those who will say the liberation of humanity and the freedom of people and mind is nothing but a dream. They are right. It is an American dream, but freedom is never free.

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