A day of relection

by John Lenotte, American Legion

First, a few facts. Memorial Day was formerly known as Decoration Day. This holiday commemorates U.S. men and women who have died in military service to their country. It began first to honor Union soldiers who died during the American Civil War. After World War I, it was expanded to include those who died in any war or military action.

The first Memorial Day was observed in 1865 by liberated slaves at the historic race track in Charleston. The site was a former Confederate prison camp as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who had died while captive. A parade with thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers was followed by patriotic singing and a picnic.

The official birthplace of Memorial Day is Waterloo, New York. The village was credited with being the birthplace because it observed the day on May 5, 1866, and each year thereafter, and because it is likely that the friendship of General John Murray, a distinguished citizen of Waterloo, and General John A. Logan, who led the call for the day to be observed each year and helped spread the event nationwide, was a key factor in its growth.

General Logan had been impressed by the way the South honored their dead with a special day and decided the Union needed a similar day. Reportedly, Logan said that it was most fitting; that the ancients, especially the Greeks, had honored their dead, particularly their heroes, by chaplets of laurel and flowers, and that he intended to issue an order designating a day for decorating the grave of every soldier in the land, and if he could he would have made it a holiday.

Logan had been the principal speaker in a citywide memorial observation on April 29, 1866, at a cemetery in Carbondale, Illinois, an event that likely gave him the idea to make it a national holiday. On May 5, 1868, in his capacity as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans’ organization, Logan issued a proclamation that “Decoration Day” be observed nationwide. It was observed for the first time on May 30 of the same year; the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of a battle. The tombs of fallen Union soldiers were decorated in remembrance of this day.

The alternative name of “Memorial Day” was first used in 1882, but did not become more common until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967.

On the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.

Locally, a few Veterans, led by the American Legion, place the American flags on the gravesites of our fallen warriors. In Haverhill, the number has risen to over 5,000 graves. A number that will only increase over time.

Yet again this year, most of us will focus on going to the beach, lake, barbecue and yard sale. Can we spare a bit of our time to salute those who have served the nation in times of peace and war? Is it so hard to come out and cheer those veterans who march in the parade? Let us not forget that all gave some and some gave all. And give a moment of homage to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Let us cherish the freedoms we have. Freedoms that came with the price of the fallen soldier, sailor, marine and airman. A price that continues to be paid daily. Put politics aside for the day. And let us say ‘thanks’.

I am asking all our veterans, including those still on active duty, to participate in the parade on Memorial Day. Let us honor our fallen brothers and sisters. If you cannot march, ride in one of the many vehicles. Let us show our elected representatives that we care and we are very much part of the silent majority. I challenge you to join me as I march for those who cannot.

God Bless America and the troops who protect us.

John Lenotte is the American Legion, Commander, Wilbur M. Comeau Post 4 Haverhill and Vice Commander, Dept. of Massachusetts.  You can Email him at JohnLDistrict8@verizon.net


All pictures and material are
(C) copyright, Valley Patriot, Inc., 2008

*MAY 2008 Edition

May Index Page

Valley Patriot_Archives

Email us here

2008 Ad Rates

About Us
(978) 557-5413 office
(978) 258-1964 fax

2008 Ad Rates
(line ads .80 cents per word)
Pay by credit card using PayPal below

Now Accepting PAYPAL!
The Valley Patriot is now
accepting credit cards for
subscription and advertising

Valley Patriot Distribution MAP*

Natasha Young


... sponsored by

Prior Valley Patriots
of the Month

To Our Brave

About Us
(978) 557-5413 office
(978) 258-1964 fax

2008 Ad Rates
(line ads .80 cents per word)
Pay by credit card using PayPal below

Valley Patriot Distribution MAP*

Commonwealth Motors
Shop Us last...
You'll Love us!

Valley Patriot ARCHIVES

Page Two




Valley Patriot Ad Info


Contact us