Take a moment to read about the history of Memorial Day:
Originally called Decoration Day, from the early tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths and flags, Memorial Day is a day for remembrance of those who have died in service to our country. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers, by proclamation of Gen. John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of former Union sailors and soldiers.
During that first national celebration, former Union Gen. and sitting Ohio Congressman James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.
Local towns picked up the banner and across America we have observed Memorial Day in our cities, small towns, and communities ever since.
Locally, there are several observances that we can join over the next few days.
American Legion Post 450 will have a salute to fallen soldiers at David Raines Park on May 24. Following the observances, there will be food vendors, a voter registration booth, health screenings, a softball game, and arts and crafts activities for the kids.
Monday, May 26 will be a busy day with several observances throughout town.
The first is at Hillcrest cemetery in Haughton at 9:00 a.m. at the Sunrise Stage Amphitheater. Guest speaker this year is Ray Urban from American Legion Post 14.
At noon on Monday, there will be a ceremony at the Northwest Louisiana Veteran's Cemetery in Keithville. This is always a very moving ceremony as various service organizations, such as the Gold Star Mothers and the Order of the Purple Heart, place memorial wreaths. Last year the Patriot Guard thundered in to begin the ceremony and the line of motorcycles seemed to go on for miles. It was as moving a thing as I've ever seen.
In the afternoon, at 2:00, head on over to the American Legion Post 14 for the traditional Wreath Laying Ceremony in the waters of Cross Lake sponsored by the 98th Fleet Reserve. The tolling of the bells for lost shipmates is haunting. If you're in attendance at that event, find me and you can be my guest in the Legion lounge for a cold beverage following the ceremony.
Regroup, cool off and then head on over to Broadmoor Baptist Church for the 6:00 p.m. program headed by Sheriff Julian Whittington who will speak. The Young Marines will serve as Honor Guard. There will also be a choir and bagpipes to honor local fallen soldiers.
Close to my heart is the traditional Memorial Day observance each year at Greenwood Cemetery at the corner of Stoner and Centenary. The date this year will be Friday, May 30 at 9:00 a.m. This is sponsored by the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 30 and the speaker this year is former Air Force pilot Carroll Michaud. Service organizations will again place memorial wreaths.
Greenwood cemetery is where two of the Kelley brothers are buried; watch for a story on them in my weekly post at DaTechGuy blog this Monday. One Shreveport family lost three sons in less than two years during World War II. Their father wrote a local congressman begging him to spare his fourth son who then remained stateside for the duration of the war.
So before you fire up your bar-b-que and put on your flip flops this summer, take time to remember the fallen. Take time to learn about their sacrifices and the sacrifices of the families and the country that supported them.
Go here to watch an amazing video of the 507th PIR and their emotional return to Normandy years after their participation in the D-Day invasion. (Georgia Public Broadcasting link; it's safe.) Here's a trailer:
Here you can listen to service songs of all the military branches. (PBS).