My father’s adoptive dad, who was in reality his uncle, was a veteran of the Army and served in World War II under a segregated unit. My actual grandfather never served in the military, nor did my brother and several cousins, though one cousin did a brief stint in the Air Force. My nephew is in the Marines at the present, stationed at Camp Lejeune. His cousin, also a Marine, has just been deployed to Syria. I truly hope he makes it back home safely.
I may not have relatives’ graves to mark with an American flag, but I am still able to reflect upon the unselfish acts of bravery and ultimate sacrifice that all of our military men and women make when they are killed in the line of duty when serving the United States. It doesn’t matter whether they are black, white, brown, green, blue or purple, whether they died fighting the VietCong, Saddam Hussein or Al Quaeda. They have earned my respect a dozen times over, no matter my feelings about the human race in general. Sure, they are out there taking lives but if they didn’t, where we the free world be today? Europe would probably be under German Nazi or Russian control, and many other nations would not be where they are today.
From the History site: Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.
On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th 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 churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.
Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.
For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper claimed in 1906 that Warrenton, Virginia, was the location of the first Civil War soldier’s grave ever to be decorated; the date cited was June 3, 1861. There is also documentation that women in Savannah, Georgia, decorated Confederate soldiers’ graves in 1862. The 1863 cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was, of course, a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers. In addition, local historians in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, claim that ladies there decorated soldiers’ graves on July 4, 1864, and Boalsburg promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
Following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, commemorations were ubiquitous. The sheer number of soldiers of both sides who died in the Civil War (more than 600,000) meant that burial and memorialization took on new cultural significance. Under the leadership of women during the war, an increasingly formal practice of decorating graves had taken shape. In 1865, the federal government began creating national military cemeteries for the Union war dead.