“The dead soldier’s silence sings our national anthem.”

My town parade lasted about 8 minutes but I loved it. It was small town American at its best. The soldiers who gave their lives and those who served were recognized for their sacrifices. The small crowd of spectators waved flags and applauded.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead.”  While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860’s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

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17 Comments on ““The dead soldier’s silence sings our national anthem.””

  1. Hedley Says:

    He was a character. Well known in the village as he wore his straw hat and carried his shopping bag. Standing about five foot tall, his time came when he was 16 years and 11 months. He prided himself on his marksmanship, he moved between regiments, He survived Arras, he survived being gassed.
    When he passed I was devastated, but I will never forget him

    • Kat Says:

      Thank you, my dear Hedley!

      • Hedley Says:

        He never learned how to drive but it was rumored that he took the wheel and drove in the hedgerows as part of his duties in the Home Guard during the second war.
        When the bikes hit Surrey during the road races for this Olympic Summer they will pass their home inTyrrells Wood, where so many Canadians were billeted with them, waiting for their time.
        I will be on the pavement, not sure were but….

  2. Bob Says:

    Unfortunately, remembering our fallen war heroes has been replaced or overshadowed by drinking trips to the shore or lake, the Indianapolis 500 automobile race (and some other NASCAR event), baseball games, picnics in the park and lots of people out shopping the pre-summer sales. Maybe we have become so used to having a war that we as a people have become indifferent. News reports of the progress or lack of progress in our latest overseas conflict is commonplace. We no longer pay more than a passing second of attention to the young men who come home to their final resting place in a flag draped casket. I wonder how many young people are entering the armed forces today not because of Patriotism or belief in rightness of the war in Afghanistan but because of the terrible recession and lack of jobs created by the failed economic and foreign policies of the ‘shrub’ administration since 2001.

    When I was a kid people appeared to have taken Memorial Day more seriously. We all watched TV as the President lay a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery. Veterans groups sold poppies on street corners. In the late 1950s there were lots of veterans of both world wars and Korea still alive and we were not yet embroiled in the useless Vietnam conflict. Our desensitization of war since then is evident in our language. During World War I a soldier was said to suffer ‘shell shock’. In World War II he suffered ‘battle fatigue’. During the Vietnam war and all the wars since he is suffering ‘post traumatic shock disorder’. It doesn’t seem so bad but when put that way but it’s just as terrible.

    I always wondered how it was determined which deceased were chosen to represent all the unknown dead and how did the government know that they were American solders and not from the ranks of the enemy since their identity is unknown. Only a kid would think of those issues

    • Kat Says:

      You are so very right about the meaning of the day being lost by so many. Instead or rememberance it’s time for a cook-out and that extra day off for the weekend.

      According to my paper yesterday, the number of young men and women entering the service is as low as it has been in years. The deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan have made war a scary choice for so many, especially when men we all know have been killed.

      I watched Taking Chance yesterday, and it touched my heart.

      Three years ago the son of a friend was killed. People lined the street in tribute when his casket was being transported. When the war hits closer to home, people honor the sacrifice.

      Maybe they were wearing the remnants of an American uniform or were at a place where the enemy hadn’t reached during the battle. I read where there will be no more unknown soldiers with the sophistication of current DND testing.

  3. olof1 Says:

    No parades and no Memorial day over here. We haven’t been to war since Napoleon that we helped to defeat and got Norway from Denmark since they helped Napoleon. Neither the Danes nor the Norwegians were especially happy about that to be honest. Denmark didn’t want to lose any more land to us and the Norwegians had hoped to become a country of their own.

    Have a great Memorial Day!

    • Hedley Says:

      Christer, so was that what inspired Abba’s “Waterloo” ?

      • olof1 Says:

        🙂 Sorry but I think we missed that battle 🙂 Our troops were further north I think just in case things wouldn’t go as hoped 🙂 The only reason we participated in that war was because our king had been a high officer in Napoleons army and he hoped that he might be king of France if Napoleon fell, how wrong he was 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Kat Says:

      I think Memorial Day is only an American holiday as it began after the Civil War.

      It would be wonderful not to have been in a war since Napoleon.

  4. Birgit Says:

    As you can understand we have a good reason
    not to celebrate a specific soldier-memorial-holiday,
    but it is important to remember ALL victims of war,
    which are mainly civilians in almost any war and country.
    Let’s not forget the cruelties of war to prevent new wars.
    Not only but especially in my home-country Germany.
    Have a good Memorial Day !
    We owe a lot to american and other foreign soldiers.

    • Kat Says:

      I agree about remembering the victims of war. I think of those children in Syria and all other innocent victims.

      We don’t seem to learn much from one war to another.

  5. Zoey & Me Says:

    As a surviving Vietnam Veteran I was very moved by President Obama’s speech at the Wall. I hope you get a chance to hear it or maybe it will be excerpted in your morning paper. He was blunt, in parts, but it really hit home. I think I’d unconsciously been waiting for those words for maybe 45 years. No doubt a Vietnam Veteran told him it was time. That made my Memorial Day. Now it’s on with the hot dogs and burgers.

    • Kat Says:

      I heard the entire speech on Democratic Underground.com, and it was moving. He said what should have been said 50 years ago when you and the other soldiers came home.

      Thank you!

  6. Morpfy Says:

    To thee who is thus silent:

  7. Beto Says:

    Decoration Day

    We woke up well before the dawn
    Each last Monday in May
    And went to all the soldiers graves
    On Decoration Day

    Then in full dress of blue and gold
    With sash and badge and pin
    We’d clean and trim and place a flag
    For all our fallen kin

    Day greater then than Four July
    We tallied freedoms bill
    And cooked upon an open fire
    Till all were fully filled

    Then more to point the morrows morn
    Each generation train
    That those with decorated grave
    Have not fallen in vain

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