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May 31 2010

Memorial Day

Last night I watched a Memorial Day tribute on television.  The show was a very moving tribute to all the service personnel that have served and/or have lost their lives.  Mankind has been fighting each other since the beginning of time.  Nations have been wiped out.  Men, women and children lose their lives  as casualties of war.  In yesterday’s Memorial Day tribute, a scene of a war torn country in Europe showed a little boy, perhaps 4 years old standing among the ruins weeping and in shock.  That is an image that I have not been able to shake from my mind.

In Word War I the total number of deaths were 16 million deaths (military and civilian).  Over 60 million people lost their lives in Word War II.  The Korean War had 2.5 million deaths.  Over 58,000 American soldiers lost their lives in the Vietnam war.  At least 78,558,000  people lost their lives due to war in only a little over 100 years.  That is a staggering 78 million people whose lives were cut short.  Mankind continues to engage in war.

A few years ago, I took a trip to Hong Kong.  I visited a number of WWII sites as well as visiting the sites where our fallen troops were buried.  As I stood there looking at all the crosses marking the burial sites of our fallen soldiers, I was struck with the age of those buried.  Most of the fallen were kids, kids just out of high school.  These youngsters went from their senior prom to the battle field where their lives were cut short.  They never made it home and were buried in a foreign country.

Memorial Day was first officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan and was first observed on May 30, 1868  when flowers were place on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at the Arlington National Cemetery.

General Order No. 11

HEADQUARTERS GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC

General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

  1. The 30th day 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 church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. 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.If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from his honor; let us in this solemn presence 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.
  2. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
  3. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.By order ofJOHN A. LOGAN,
    Commander-in-Chief

    N.P. CHIPMAN,
    Adjutant General

    Official:
    WM. T. COLLINS, A.A.G.

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