Inspire, Summer 1999

A News Publication for Cedarville College Alumni 1 SUMMER 1999 The Origins OfMemorial Day M emorial Day,a tradition which began as a simple expression of gratitude on the part of a small contingent of Confederate women,has grown into one of the most revered and poignant days of the year. As a tribute to America's heroes, Cedarville College devotes the chapel hour on Memorial Day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and to honor those who have worn the uniforms of the armed services of the United States. This commemoration of war heroes has a long history which some may remember as Decoration Day. Just three years after the end of the Civil War,Decoration Day was established as a time for the nation to place flowers on the graves of war dead.The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery. The observances of 1868, however, were not the first to celebrate the sacrifices of Americans in the War between the States. Perhaps the first of the many springtime tributes to Civil War dead occurred in Columbus, Mississippi on April 25, 1866. There, a group of women gathered at a local cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Disturbed at the sight of nearby graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were those of the enemy,the women placed some of their flowers on those graves. By the end of the 19th century, Decoration Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. A number of state legislatures passed proclamations designating the day. The Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor all those who have died in American wars. In 1971 Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress,though it is still often called Decoration Day. The origins of special services to honor those who died in wars can be traced to antiquity. The Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War more than 24 centuries ago:"Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them,graven not on stone but in the hearts of men." That sentiment is applicable today to the 1.1 million Americans who have died in our nation's wars. The students,faculty, staff, and administrators of Cedarville College join with the chorus of millions of Americans who set aside Memorial Day to remember the heroes of America's wars and to say "thank you" to those who have faithfully served their country as members of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps,Air Force, and Coast Guard. Informationfor this article was adaptedfrom The Department of Veterans Affairs Memorial Day Homepage.