Memorial Day

Cambridge, England, American Military Cemetery

Today is Memorial Day, the day we as Americans have set aside to remember those who gave their lives for us, and for others. Americans have always been willing to die for freedom, and far too many have. Memorial Day (which was Decoration day until roughly World War II) was established by the people, not the government, after the Civil War, originally recognizing the war dead of the Federal Army, in time it expanded to all American war dead, even the Confederate, also in time those war dead spread around the world. In England, France, Italy, Australia, the Philippines, and elsewhere, as America became the champion of freedom worldwide.

A hundred years ago, American troops were just beginning to firm up the Allied lines in France, they would go on to attack and seal the doom of the German Empire. Sammies, I’m told the French called them, after Uncle Sam, they called themselves doughboys, often shortened to dough.

But was there any meaning to all those men dying in France? Well, it’s kind of in the eye of the beholder, I suppose. Here’s the eye of one beholder, Vera Brittain, a British nurse serving in France.

“Only a day or two afterwards I was leaving quarters to go back to my ward, when I had to wait to let a large contingent of troops march past me along the main road that ran through our camp.  They were swinging rapidly towards Camiers, and though the sight of soldiers marching was too familiar to arouse curiosity, an unusual quality of bold vigour in their swift stride caused me to stare at them with puzzled interest.

They looked larger than ordinary men; their tall, straight figures were in vivid contrast to the under-sized armies of pale recruits to which we had grown accustomed.  At first I thought their spruce, clean uniforms were those of officers, yet obviously they could not be officers, for there were too many of them; they seemed, as it were, Tommies in heaven.  Had yet another regiment been conjured from our depleted Dominions?  I wondered, watching them move with such rhythm, such dignity, such serene consciousness of self-respect.  But I knew the colonial troops so well, and these were different; they were assured where the Australians were aggressive, self-possessed where the New Zealanders were turbulent.

Then I heard an excited exclamation from a group of Sisters behind me.

‘Look! Look!  Here are the Americans.!’

I pressed forward with the others to watch the United States physically entering the war, so God-like, so magnificent, so splendidly unimpaired in comparison with the tired, nerve-racked men of the British Army.  So these were our deliverers at last, marching up the road to Camiers in the spring sunshine!  There seemed to be hundreds of them, and in the fearless swagger of their proud strength they looked a formidable bulwark against the peril looming from Amiens.

…An uncontrollable emotion seized me – as such emotions often seized us in those days of insufficient sleep; my eyeballs pricked, my throat ached, and a mist swam over the confident Americans going to the front.  The coming of relief made me realise all at once how long and how intolerable had been the tension, and with the knowledge that we were not, after all, defeated, I found myself beginning to cry.”

From ” Look! Here are the Americans!” The U.S. in World War I and Popular Memory

Today is the day to remember all those we left behind.

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18 Responses to Memorial Day

  1. Scoop says:

    It was really interesting for me when I moved to SC and found that they did not recognize Memorial Day due to the original celebration of Yankee and not Confederate dead. The Federal agencies do, of course, but many businesses and state agencies don’t. Its funny how long those old slights hold sway more than a century and are still going strong. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Yep, Reconstruction did a lot of harm. It also pays to remember that when the Army of Northern Virginia marched into the surrender, the Army of the Potomac came to Carry Arms, the marching salute, as it passed. By General Chamberlin’s, the hero of Gettysburg, order if memory serves. The salute was returned. It was always the damned civilians, the soldiers always respected each other. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Scoop says:

        A lot to that I think.

        BTW, here in SC we actually have a Confederate Memorial Day that is a state holiday celebrated on May 10th.

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Most of the Old South does, I think. I think it’s great. Slavery aside, they fought for their view of America, as hard as any American soldiers, ever. Although I don’t know if it’s the same day. As I recall Virginia also celebrate Lee’s and Jackson’s birthday. I like that, wonder when California will celebrate Patton’s. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • Scoop says:

          Yes others have set aside (I think) April 26th for Confederate Memorial Day. As far as California goes they celebrate Harvey Milk Day in West Hollywood on May 22nd instead. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Figures don’t it? 🙂

          But then the guys that made the movie “Patton” thought they were making an anti-war film. ooops! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • Scoop says:

          Yeah, that sounds about right. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Yep! 🙂

          Like

        • Scoop says:

          I imagine the next big holiday in West Hollywood, CA will be Stormy Daniels Day where they can celebrate a porn star who gave samples of her goods to a future president; quite an achievement.

          I keep thinking, though why they aren’t celebrating Harvey Weinstein yet? After all the Kennedy boys (especially Teddy “the waitress sandwich” and wild Bill Clinton) are still held to the highest esteem by everyone on the left coast. Seems a bit unfair to use Harvey as a scapegoat. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Yeah, well, maybe because he was honest and really did help their careers, instead of leaving them to drown in a car. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • Scoop says:

          I’m sure that must be it. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          🙂

          Like

  2. the unit says:

    It’s no argumentative issue to me where, when, and for who it started. However, I’ve read locals started decorating the graves of the war dead in East Tennessee. Decorated them all Union and Confederate. Probably couldn’t tell which was which for sure, and probably didn’t matter.
    I guess when, where, and for who one might try to research the first depends on when, where, and for who one researches for, as it’s probably an argumentative issue still for many. 🙂
    God bless’em past, now, and the one’s that’ll give all in the future…and the people who have and will forever commemorate them!

    Liked by 2 people

    • NEO says:

      Officially General John Logan the commander of the the Grand Army of the Republic (The legion equivalent of the federal army) set the date for the North in 1867. I don’t think it matters either, for that matter I have seen Union Jacks placed on British graves from the Revolution on Memorial day. Honorable opponents who fought honorably should be honored. Kipling, as always, had something on point to say:

      “THE SNOW lies thick on Valley Forge,
      The ice on the Delaware,
      But the poor dead soldiers of King George
      They neither know nor care.

      Not though the earliest primrose break
      On the sunny side of the lane,
      And scuffling rookeries awake
      Their England’ s spring again.

      They will not stir when the drifts are gone,
      Or the ice melts out of the bay:
      And the men that served with Washington
      Lie all as still as they.

      They will not stir though the mayflower blows
      In the moist dark woods of pine,
      And every rock-strewn pasture shows
      Mullein and columbine.

      Each for his land, in a fair fight,
      Encountered, strove, and died,
      And the kindly earth that knows no spite
      Covers them side by side.

      She is too busy to think of war;
      She has all the world to make gay;
      And, behold, the yearly flowers are
      Where they were in our fathers’ day!

      Golden-rod by the pasture-wall
      When the columbine is dead,
      And sumach leaves that turn, in fall,
      Bright as the blood they shed.”

      Liked by 2 people

      • the unit says:

        Yeah, it was a lovely short few sentences in that article about East TN girl. Not a long story. Left the details to be “Gentle on on My Mind.”
        A girl looking for the grave of her fiancee, couldn’t find, and decorated them all.
        Love story covering lot’s…Union and Confederates.
        Might’ve been true. Sure it was. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Certainly a lovely story, and in east Tennessee he could have been either or even both. A bit sad though. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        As you said there was the “official”. And also as you said the “people’s” before that. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • NEO says:

          Yep, Logan was a good man, but I like that this holiday was started by the people. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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