Monday, May 28, 2007

The Origins Of Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May (observed this year on 2007-05-28). It 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 expanded to include those who died in any war or military action.

According to Professor David Blight of the Yale University History Department, 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. At that time the day was called Docoration 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 June 28, 1968, the U. S. Congress passed the Uniform Holidays Bill, which moved four holidays from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The holidays included Washington's Birthday (which evolved into Presidents' Day), Columbus Day, Veterans Day, and Memorial Day. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect nationwide in 1971.

This Memorial Day let's remember the 3,452 service members who have perished all in the name of "liberating" Iraq and "fighting terrorism". Let's also remember the hundreds of thousands of warriors who have died in the past so we can sleep in late, eat juicy burgers and drink our beer while throwing a baseball around today. Find out more at:

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Today's poem:

The Word "Intergalactic" Bordered By Flashing Lights

As we pretend to be our own caretakers never expecting
a single sign of redemption...

"What if tomorrow turns out to be the last available seat on
the bus", she worries, as the blue veins whisper words of
affection beneath her opaque skin.

"That would never happen but if it did the road ahead would
likely be laced with potholes and could easily be disguised
as a snake laced around our occipital wrists", I reply, after
finding our return-tickets to nowhere.
And pigeons crowded with feathers in the rafters watch us
dine on our heroics wrapped in tin foil or

aliens wait for the perfect time to mutate into no-smoking signs

This poem first publised at:
Copright 2007 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.
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