"Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day." -- VFW 2002 Memorial Day address
Memorial Day used to be a solemn day of mourning, a sacred day of remembrance to honor those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Businesses closed for the day. Towns held parades honoring the fallen, the parade routes often times ending at a local cemetery, where Memorial Day speeches were given and prayers offered up. People took the time that day to clean and decorate with flowers and flags the graves of those the fell in service to their country.
"Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic." -- General Logan - May 5, 1868
We need to remember with sincere respect those who paid the price for our freedoms; we need to keep in sacred remembrance those who died serving their country. We need to never let them be forgotten. However, over the years the original meaning and spirit of Memorial Day has faded from the public consciousness.
"If it is considered a holiday, why is it so? I consider it to be a national day of mourning. This is how we observe this day in our home. Because of what that day represents the rest of the days of the year are our holidays." -- F L Lloyd West Chester, Pa USA - February 26, 2000
On Memorial Day we need to stop and pay with sincere conviction our respects for those who died protecting and preserving the freedoms we enjoy, for we owe those honored dead more than we can ever repay.
People of other nations sometimes show more of the true spirit of Memorial Day more than we do here. For example, a 2001 U.S. Memorial Day Guestbook entry from a citizen of the Netherlands states:
"In 1999 I laid flowers at the grave of a young U.S. fighter pilot who was KIA in my village in 1945. In the Netherlands I know of schools 'adopting' graves of Allied servicemen, keeping those graves in excellent condition! Does anybody know of adopting graves in the U.S. by schools?Sincerely,
Castricum, The Netherlands - Tue May 15 04:50:29 2001"
How many graves of our fallen do we in America leave dishonored by leaving their resting places forgotten and neglected?
Unfortunately, when Congress made Memorial day into a mandatory three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363), it made it all the easier for us to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day.
The Moment of Remembrance started in 2001 is a step in the right direction to returning the meaning back to the day. What is needed is a full return to the original day of observance. Set aside one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember and reflect, to maintain and decorate the graves of the fallen, and as Gen Logan stated in his famous General Order #11: "renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan."
On 17 of March 1989 Senator Inouye [HI] introduced a bill to the Senate which called for the restoration of the traditional day of observance of Memorial Day back to May 30th. Every new Congress since then (every two years), Mr. Inouye has faithfully re-introduced the bill. Several times a companion bill was introduced to the House.
As eloquently stated by Mr. Inouye in his introductory remarks to the bill he introduced in 1999:
"Mr. President, in our effort to accommodate many Americans by making the last Monday in May, Memorial Day, we have lost sight of the significance of this day to our nation. Instead of using Memorial Day as a time to honor and reflect on the sacrifices made by Americans in combat, many Americans use the day as a celebration of the beginning of summer. My bill would restore Memorial Day to May 30 and authorize our flag to fly at half mast on that day. In addition, this legislation would authorize the President to issue a proclamation designating Memorial Day and Veterans Day as days for prayer and ceremonies honoring American veterans. This legislation would help restore the recognition our veterans deserve for the sacrifices they have made on behalf of our nation." (1999 Congressional Record, page S621)
However, the State of New Jersey passed legislation, urging congress to Restore Memorial Day during the 2010 session. Their bill is SR17. Thank you New Jersey.
To keep the number of three day Federal Holidays the same, Armed Forces day, the third weekend of every May, could easily become a three-day holiday. On that holiday we can celebrate our freedoms won and maintained by our Armed Forces - a three-day holiday to focus on our active duty men and women in uniform and to expressively show them our love and support.
Do you think Memorial Day should have its traditional day of observance restored? If so, should Armed Forces Day (presently the third Saturday of May) be converted to a 3-day weekend holiday in its place? Vote in our poll here. And if you do agree that Memorial Day should have its traditional day of observance restored, please take a moment to sign the petition that will be delivered to Congress, and invite your friends and family to do the same.