Today is Memorial Day!

flag soldiers

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us–that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion–that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
–Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863



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

  1. 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.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

  1. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
  2. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.

By order of


Adjutant General




Today we celebrate Memorial Day, though celebrate may not be the best word. We remember—that’s more appropriate. Originally called Decoration Day, it was meant to be a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. Though it has turned into the unofficial first weekend of summer and most of us spend it picnicking and boating and barbecuing with friends and family, we shouldn’t lose sight of its meaning—its reason.

“Memorial Day commemorates the men and women who died while in military service
to the United States of America.”

Today, let’s take a minute out of our day of boating, eating and celebrating, to remember.  Put down the hot dogs, the baseball bats, the sunscreen, and remember all those who sacrificed for us—both those in the past and those doing so right now—so we may enjoy a wonderful summertime tradition.

Remember Memorial Day!

Tracy Garrett
HER SANCTUARY–available now!

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18 thoughts on “Today is Memorial Day!”

  1. Thank you, Tracy, for the reminder. I believe too few people realize the reason for Memorial Day; even fewer know the observance began immediately following the Civil War (War of Rebellion or War of Northern Aggression or “the late unpleasantness,” depending upon whom and when you were.) As Americans, we need to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so the rest of us could live in a country founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all.

  2. I thank you too for this post and the history of Memorial Day.

    I’d like to remember and honor my great-great-grandfather Thomas and his son Alfred who gave their lives in Texas during the War of Rebellion as well as his son William who did survive, my grandfather Andrew who fought Pancho Villa on American soil until WWI called him into action, and my dad who fought and survived the Battle of the Bulge in WWII. Like most veterans who experience the devastation of war, my dad never ever talked about it (other than to other vets), but from his records and all his medals and citations that I finally got to see after he was gone, I can tell his contributions made a difference, as everything he did in life did.

    My heart and thanks go out to all those who served.

  3. Good reminder, Tracy. Growing up, my parents called it “Decoration Day”–I remember being confused for a long time! LOL I think we need more reminders–that this weekend is not about partying, but about remembering and honoring.

    • I agree, Cheryl. I loved your post at Western Fictioneers, too. The patriotism that has always been score to what I consider necessary values is being slowly eroded–and that breaks my heart. I’m sitting here, watching the boats go by, wondering how many of them have stopped to remember.

  4. Today, we represented the American Red Cross at two Memorial Day ceremonies. First at Mountain Home National Cemetery in TN. We provided blood pressure checks, water, coffee, and donuts to those attending. The speakers explained the origins of Memorial Day and The designation of Blue Star and Gold Star Mothers/Families. They then read the names of those buried there who died in combat or died on active duty during war time. There were dance performances and singers. The ceremonies finished with the playing of taps, Amazing Grace played on the bagpipes, a three volley salute, and retiring and folding the flag from the model of the Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier.
    We packed up from that event and set up for the second. That one was held in early evening at the City & County Veterans Memorial Park. One of the speakers explained one tradition I was not familiar with, leaving coins on the tombstones. A coin left on a headstone let’s the deceased soldier’s family know that somebody stopped by to pay their respect. Leaving a penny means you visited. A nickel means that you and the deceased soldier trained at boot camp together. If you served with the soldier, you leave a dime. A quarter is very significant because it means that you were there when that soldier was killed.
    So what happens to the coins after Memorial Day? It is collected and the money is used for cemetery maintenance, the cost of burial for soldiers, or the care for indigent soldiers.
    Supposedly the tradition became popular here in the United States during the Vietnam war.
    In general, however, this tradition can be traced to as far back as the Roman Empire. It was a way to give a buddy some spending money for the hereafter.

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