The Real Meaning Of Memorial Day
May 30, 2011
By Tom Barrett
Today I had dinner with a patriot who understands the real meaning of Memorial Day. He has served in the Army, both on active duty and in the reserves, since he was a teenager, and has done numerous tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He knows other patriots who came back from those places in coffins.
Unfortunately, his Commander-in-Chief does not understand the meaning of Memorial Day. This is not too surprising since he never served in the military and since one of his key campaign promises was that he would do everything in his power to weaken our military strength and readiness.
At dinner I asked my friend (we’ll call him “Fred” to protect him from those who don’t like free speech), what he thought I should write about this Memorial Day weekend. “Fred” has achieved the second highest enlisted rank in the US Army. He told me he heard Obama make this statement about Memorial Day: “On this day we honor our fallen by honoring all those in uniform.”
“Fred” is a very perceptive man. He picked up on something that the great majority probably missed in this statement. It sounds good on the surface, doesn’t it? Honor our fallen heroes by honoring all the men and women who serve. But that’s not the purpose of Memorial Day. Obama’s statement is just another example of the destructive “inclusiveness” that is methodically stripping away any meaning from the sacred traditions that remind us of who we are as a nation, and of the terrible sacrifices that patriots have made to allow us our freedom.
Memorial Day is a national day of remembrance for those who died in the service of our nation. It is a special day to honor their memories.
It was originally called Decoration Day. All across the nation women’s groups set aside a special day to decorate the graves of those who died during the Civil War. It was officially proclaimed by Army General John Logan on May 5, 1868, and was first observed on May 30 of that year by the placing of flowers on the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
Memorial Day was recognized by all states by the end of World War I, when the holiday was changed from honoring only the fallen of the Civil War, to honoring Americans who had died fighting in any war. But even though millions of Americans celebrated the day, it was not until 1971 that it was recognized as a national holiday. In that year by an Act of Congress the last Monday in May was set aside for Memorial Day, ensuring a three day weekend. This was a mistake.
In their comment on this act, the Veteran's of Foreign Wars stated, “Changing the date merely to create a three day weekend has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”
I'm sure they are correct. Sadly, Memorial Day observances have gradually died away over the years. It has become just another weekend to barbeque and party. Cities and towns that had held Memorial Day Parades every year for decades have dropped them. Services honoring our war dead at cemeteries, which were once common in every city, town and village, are all but unheard of today.
So, no, Mr. Obama, we don’t need to further water down the observance of Memorial Day by making it a general celebration of the military. (In case you hadn’t noticed, we just celebrated Armed Forces Day two weeks ago on May 15th.) We need to renew our efforts to ensure that the men and women who loved their country in a way you will never understand receive proper honor for making the ultimate sacrifice.
On reflection, perhaps I have been too hard on Obama. I found this quote from a previous Obama Memorial Day speech, which indicates that he may not actually understand what “fallen” means. (And yes, I checked out the authenticity of the quote with numerous sources.): “On this Memorial Day, as our nation honors its unbroken line of fallen heroes - and I see many of them in the audience here today - our sense of patriotism is particularly strong.”
Obama has announced that he will break the long-standing presidential tradition of visiting Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2010. Instead, he will make a quick visit to a cemetery in Illinois where he and his family are enjoying yet another of their many vacations at taxpayer expense. Many veterans are upset at this perceived disrespect, particularly as Obama is pushing through new rules to allow homosexuals to openly flaunt their sexual preferences in the military.
But some are not dismayed that Obama has decided not to visit Arlington. Found on a blog: “This Marine Corps mom feels relieved that the Tomb of the Unknowns will not be defiled by the America-hater’s presence.”
On this Memorial Day America is both blessed and burdened. We are blessed that the majority of Americans, both Republican and Democrat, believe in freedom and understand that it comes with a price. And we are blessed that they honor those who loved their country enough to pay that price with their blood, so that we who remain could enjoy the blessings of freedom.
But we are burdened by a president who understands none of this, and who, despite his pretty political words, does not honor our military, alive or fallen. In fact, he has barely concealed his contempt for the military since he has been in office. To see this for yourself, research his writing and speeches before he ran for the Senate. During the campaign, he coerced Harvard to seal all the papers both he and his wife wrote while attending there because they were so radical. Fortunately (for the sake of truth), many of them have since been leaked.
Even when he ran for the presidency, he refused to honor the flag by placing his hand over his heart during the playing of the national anthem, and wouldn’t wear an American flag pin on his suit. He only changed this stance when his political handlers told him he was hurting his chances of being elected.
Because we have such a man in the Oval Office, we must work doubly hard this Memorial Day to teach our children about patriotism and honor. Unfortunately, they will not learn these things by example from their president, as they should be able to.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This article was first published a year ago, so the mention of Obama’s refusal to visit Arlington National Cemetery (and going on yet another vacation instead) refers to his actions last year. After realizing what a huge political mistake that was, he did make a brief visit to Arlington this year on Memorial Day.