Memorial Day

Memorial Day Reflections, 2018

"The official etiquette is that the flag is quickly raised to the top of the staff, then slowly lowered to half-mast. What looks like half-mast is really mast-and-a-half. Just as those who died in military service gave beyond the normal measure, so we honor their memory by raising our flag beyond its normal measure." CV&V

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America the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet, Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness, And every gain divine!

O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea!

1911 version of the text by Katharine Lee Bates.

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Speech of Gen. James A. Garfield Delivered to the “Boys in Blue”

A campaign speech by General James Garfield, who became the 20th President of the United States a few months later. Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Printed Ephemera Collection.

New York, August 6, 1880

Comrades of the “Boys in Blue” and Fellow-Citizens of New York: I cannot look upon this great assemblage and these old veterans that have marched past us, and listen to the words of welcome from our comrade who has just spoken, without remembering how great a thing it is to live in this Union and be a part of it. [Applause.] This is New York; and yonder, toward the Battery, more than a hundred years ago, a young student of Columbia College was arguing the ideas of the American Revolution and American union against the un-American loyalty to monarchy, of his college president and professors. By and by, he went into the patriot army, was placed on the staff of Washington, [cheers,] to fight the battles of his country, [cheers,] and while in camp, before he was twenty-one years old, upon a drum-head he wrote a letter which contained every germ of the Constitution of the United States. [Applause.] That student, soldier, statesman, and great leader of thought, Alexander Hamilton, of New York, made this Republic glorious by his thinking, and left his lasting impress upon this the foremost State of the Union. [Applause.] And here on this island, the scene of his early triumphs, we gather to-night, soldiers of the new war, representing the same ideas of union, having added strength and glory to the monument reared by the heroes of the Revolution.

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General Orders No.11, Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868

Headquarters Grand Army of the Republic

General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

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From the Archives: Ronald Reagan's 1986 Memorial Day Speech

President Reagan delivered the speech at Arlington National Cemetery after placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Source: Heritage Foundation and The American Presidencey Project.

Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It’s a day to be with the family and remember.

I was thinking this morning that across the country children and their parents will be going to the town parade and the young ones will sit on the sidewalks and wave their flags as the band goes by. Later, maybe, they’ll have a cookout or a day at the beach. And that’s good, because today is a day to be with the family and to remember.

1152 reads

Dear and Sacred

Excerpt form Oliver Wendell Holmes’ 1884 Memorial Day Speech

(Keenee, New Hampshire)

Not long ago I heard a young man ask why people still kept up Memorial Day, and it set me thinking of the answer. Not the answer that you and I should give to each other-not the expression of those feelings that, so long as you live, will make this day sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth—but an answer which should command the assent of those who do not share our memories, and in which we of the North and our brethren of the South could join in perfect accord.

So far as this last is concerned, to be sure, there is no trouble. The soldiers who were doing their best to kill one another felt less of personal hostility, I am very certain, than some who were not imperiled by their mutual endeavors. I have heard more than one of those who had been gallant and distinguished officers on the Confederate side say that they had had no such feeling. I know that I and those whom I knew best had not. We believed that it was most desirable that the North should win; we believed in the principle that the Union is indissoluble; we, or many of us at least, also believed that the conflict was inevitable, and that slavery had lasted long enough. But we equally believed that those who stood against us held just as sacred convictions that were the opposite of ours, and we respected them as every men with a heart must respect those who give all for their belief. The experience of battle soon taught its lesson even to those who came into the field more bitterly disposed. You could not stand up day after day in those indecisive contests where overwhelming victory was impossible because neither side would run as they ought when beaten, without getting at least something of the same brotherhood for the enemy that the north pole of a magnet has for the south—each working in an opposite sense to the other, but each unable to get along without the other. As it was then , it is now. The soldiers of the war need no explanations; they can join in commemorating a soldier’s death with feelings not different in kind, whether he fell toward them or by their side.

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Ronald Reagan's 1986 Remarks at a Memorial Day Ceremony

President Reagan delivered the speech at Arlington National Cemetery after placing a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Source: Heritage Foundation and The American Presidencey Project.

Today is the day we put aside to remember fallen heroes and to pray that no heroes will ever have to die for us again. It’s a day of thanks for the valor of others, a day to remember the splendor of America and those of her children who rest in this cemetery and others. It’s a day to be with the family and remember.

I was thinking this morning that across the country children and their parents will be going to the town parade and the young ones will sit on the sidewalks and wave their flags as the band goes by. Later, maybe, they’ll have a cookout or a day at the beach. And that’s good, because today is a day to be with the family and to remember.

1330 reads