Henry Welles had an idea more than a century ago, an idea we still abide by today. In 1866, the United States had just emerged from a terrible and bloody civil war between our northern and southern states. Henry, a drugstore owner in Waterloo, New York, heard stories about our crippled and maimed surviving soldiers and suggested closing all the shops in town for one day to honor the soldiers who had been killed during that war. A retired Major General, Jonathan Logan, had a similar idea at about the same time.
His idea was to honor the soldiers who survived. He led the veterans through the town to the cemetery where they decorated the graves of their fallen comrades with flags. This memorial ceremony was called “Decoration Day” by the townsfolk. Two years later, both Welles’ and Logan’s ceremonies were joined, and May 30 became a day for commemorating our soldiers of the Civil War.
In 1882, the commemoration included soldiers from all previous wars, and the name was changed to Memorial Day. Ninety-nine years later, in 1971, President Richard Nixon declared Memorial Day as a federal holiday on the last Monday in May. Most Americans today recognize Memorial Day as the official start of the summer season, and on this day the overwhelming majority of American workers have the day off. According to a Gallup poll, only 28 percent of Americans know the true meaning of Memorial Day. Many get it confused with Veterans Day, a holiday that celebrates our living service members and veterans. Three out of four Americans have no clue about why they have a barbecue scheduled this weekend. Memorial Day is a rough day for me. It is a day of remembering.
Remembering can be a curse when you’ve spent years trying to forget. It is even worse when you get mad at yourself for not being able to remember. It is strange that you forget so many things you want to remember and remember so much that you really want to forget. My brother spent 13 months in Southeast Asia. I remember the parting look on his face the last time we spoke. I remember every detail of his struggle to overcome the effects of Agent Orange on his body. However, I also remember that he volunteered to go in defense of his country. This Memorial Day I remember that he was one of those who paid for this Memorial Day. I will always carry his memory and spirit with me as a living memorial to his sacrifice and dedication to God, country, duty, and honor. I will make sure that he and all those that made the ultimate sacrifice shall not pass gently into the night as long as I have breath in my body to shout to the world… REMEMBER; REMEMBER…For God’s sake Remember.
There is another event that happens this month reminds us we are to remember our mothers. They too make many sacrifices that make our world a better place to live. I read a story about a teacher who asked a boy this question: “Suppose your mother baked a pie and there were seven of you—your parents and five children. What portion of the pie would you get?” “A sixth,” replied the boy. “I am afraid you do not know your fractions,” said the teacher. “Remember, there are seven of you.” “Yes, teacher,” said the boy, “but you do not know my mother. Mother would say she did not want any pie.” Then there is the story told of a mother who had not enough to feed herself and her two children so she broke the bread that was left into two fragments and gave them to the children, who ate with eagerness. “She kept none for herself.” This was observed by a sergeant standing by with another soldier. “Is it because she is not hungry?” asked the soldier. “No,” said the sergeant. “It is because she is a mother.”
For those who have lost loved ones in defense of this country remember them for the sacrifice they made. And let us all remember our mothers as we celebrate them this month for their nurturing and special place in our lives. GOD BLESS AMERICA, GOD BLESS YOU ALL AND GOD BLESS THE CITY OF WEST PARK.