For many Memorial Day is the semiofficial beginning of the summer vacation and driving seasons, an attitude reinforced by Congress in 1971, when it was pegged to the last Monday in May — to make for a nice three-day weekend — rather than the traditional date of May 30.
But the true meaning of Memorial Day is something none of us should ever forget and we should use the day to give a big “thank you” to those who have served and those who continue to serve.
Memorial Day, of course, is the day set aside to honor those who gave, as Abraham Lincoln put it, “the last full measure of devotion” in service to the country in military conflicts. Its precise origins are a little murky, in that dozens of cities and towns set aside a day to honor those killed in the Civil War, or the War Between the States, by decorating their graves with flowers, flags and other symbols of respect.
When officially proclaimed by Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in 1868, the observance was called Decoration Day.
By the end of the century all the northern states recognized Decoration Day, but most southern states chose not to acknowledge it, preferring to honor their dead on different days. After World War I, the commemoration changed from honoring those who died in the Civil War to honoring those who died in any war.
Traditionally, many cities held parades on Memorial Day, but that practice has declined somewhat. It was also traditional to visit cemeteries and place flags and flowers on the graves of military people. That tradition deserves revival.
But it is not uncommon in the Permian Basin to find groups and individuals who mark the occasion by placing flags on the graves of veterans. And that serves to demonstrate just how many people honored their country with military service.
Actually, the traditional Memorial Day observance in Odessa and Midland has been expanded to include a period of 10 days or more since the annual Run for the Wall motorcycle caravan makes a stop here about a week prior to the actual celebration. The riders start in California and gather more supporters as they cross the country for a big annual observance in Washington D.C.
Today, for those of you up to the early morning, attend the VFW Post 4372’s flag raising event at 208 E. VFW Lane. The event begins at 7 a.m. and is followed by a breakfast.
VFW’s Honor Guard will conduct the raising of the flag, and after the flag is raised, the VFW’s Honor Guard chaplain will give a speech, detailing the background and history of Memorial Day and what it means for veterans.
Following the raising of the flag, the chaplain will bless the food and the breakfast will begin. The event is free and open for all to attend.
It is in events like this that we can see the true meaning of this three day holiday as our summer begins.
We take this time to say thank you to all veterans and to those currently serving our country.