Memorial Day is a day of memories and reflection. It’s a day to pay tribute to over 650,000 men and women who made the final, the ultimate sacrifice on fields of battle, and another 600,000 who lost their lives in the course of their military service, not in combat but nevertheless protecting this amazing country.
This is a day to pay our respect, and to offer our heartfelt gratitude and admiration to these men and women who so cared for their community, their fellow citizens and the principles of freedom and self-determination upon which our republic was founded.
Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, a time set aside to honor the nation’s civil war dead by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of civil war soldiers, by proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former sailors and soldiers.
On May 5, 1968, in General Order No. 11, Logan declared: “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. 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.”
It wasn’t until 1971 when Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday, to be celebrated on the last Monday in May.
The sacrifices we remember on Memorial Day underscore dramatically that freedom comes at an awesome and terrible cost. We must honor throughout the year the valiant service of these men and women, and we acknowledge the obligation we have to always respect their dedication, their sacrifice and indeed their heroism.
One way we can do this is to be mindful of the many veterans still living, many of whom were injured or disabled during their military service. Napa County is home to about 11,000 veterans, and thousands of surviving spouses of veterans. I urge you to support those businesses owned or operated by veterans. If you are in a position of hiring, please consider first the veteran who brings to the table such powerful qualities of dedication, honor, commitment and reliability.
Today, near and far, Americans lie forever still and forever honored because they, like 48 million brothers- and sisters-in-arms before them, assumed the heavy burden of supporting freedom, for their countrymen, but even more generously, of others worldwide.
May God bless them, and forever hold them in a place of peace.
Napa County Veterans Service Officer