Their sacrifice, our freedoms
By Walter L. Newton
After the American Civil War, Memorial Day started as “Decoration Day,” which originated
the tradition of decorating Union soldiers’ graves with flowers. As the
years went on, both north’s and south’s celebrations of Decoration Day
merged together and Memorial Day was recognized as a day to honor
deceased war veterans, no matter what side they fought on.
Robert Neelly Bellah, the former Elliott Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, once described Memorial Day as part of America’s “civic religion,” not associated with any particular religion, yet still a sacred event.
The term “Memorial Day” was not officially used until 1967, and a year later, the U.S. Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which placed federal holidays on Mondays in order to afford Americans a three-day weekend.
Traditionally, Americans would visit cemeteries to lay flowers and wreaths on veterans’ graves, even if they didn’t have a veteran family member buried in the cemetery. Currently the holiday has morphed into a day of picnics, outdoor
activities and watching the Indianapolis 500 on TV.
Gone are many of the parades that would step off in city after city, town after town and small community after community.
In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, asking Americans to stop for a
moment, at 3 p.m., and remember the fallen soldiers who have giving their lives protecting our freedoms.
No matter what your activities on Memorial Day, pause at 3 p.m. to remember those who came before us and died for all of us.
The Flume leaves you with a poem from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, with his observations and thoughts, on
what was in his time Decoration Day, written in 1892.
Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry’s shot alarms!
Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon’s sudden roar,
Or the drum’s redoubling beat.
But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.
All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!
Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.
Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.
From The Flume, have a safe and fruitful Memorial Day holiday.