by Rex Yancey

A Memorial Day Speech
Rex Yancey

It is an honor to stand before you on this special day and offer these words honoring our veterans who are with us, and those fallen heroes who gave the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.

The first Memorial Day was not called Memorial Day. It is believed to have been celebrated with a parade of freed slaves and Union soldiers marching through Charleston, South Carolina in 1865.

Waterloo, New York, is considered the official birthplace of Memorial Day because after it was observed there on May 5, 1866, General John Murray and General John A. Logan called on all communities to honor the war dead every year.

Logan had been impressed with how the South had honored the fallen Confederate soldiers for years. In 1868, Logan, the head of the prominent veterans group, the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a proclamation that ''Decoration Day'' be observed nationwide. The date chosen was May 30, specifically because it was not on the anniversary of a battle.

Still, many Southern communities did not want to honor ''Decoration day,'' because of lingering resentments from the Civil War.

Some ladies from Columbus, Mississippi, in 1866 went to the ''Friendship'' Cemetery, on the outskirts of the city, the battle ground for the Shiloh battle dead, and lay flowers on both Union and Confederate dead. Greely's New York Tribune printed a story on the unprejudiced acts of these women that lead to widespread interest in impartial offering to memory of the dead. It was seen as a ''healing touch for the nation.''

The alternative name, ''Memorial Day'' wasn't commonly used until World War 11. Federal law recognized the holiday as ''Memorial Day'' in 1967.

It seems to me that our flags should not fly at half mast on this day. Let them fly at their peak because that is what our fallen soldiers died for. They contributed to something they considered priceless, the defense of America.

These heroes did not burn their draft cards or flee ...

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