History of Memorial Day

To the Editor:

The ancient Greeks and Romans held annual days of remembrance for loved ones each year, decorating their graves with flowers and public festivals, the first in 431 B.C.
Many viewed the statement address or speech to Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
As the Civil War neared its end, thousands of Union soldiers were in prison in South Carolina. The conditions were bad and more than 250 Union soldiers had died and were buried in a mass grave. On May 1, 1865 more than 1000 freed slaves, accompanied by a regiment of US colored troops and a small handful of white people from Charleston gathered to consecrate a new proper burial site for all the Union dead. They distributed flowers around the graves at the new site.
In May of 1868, General Logan the Commander-in-Cheif of the Union Veterans group known as the Grand Army of the Republic issued a decree that May 30 should become a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the Civil War. He called it Decoration Day. People were encouraged to decorate the graves of the fallen soldiers. There are two reasons given on why Logan chose this date. The first was that it was a rare day that didn’t fall on the anniversary of a Civil War battle. The second reason was that he wanted to ensure that flowers across the whole nation would be in full bloom.
People believe Logan also adopted this idea from a ladies Memorial association who decorated Confederate graves in April of 1886.
America embraced the notion of Decoration Day immediately. That first year, more than 27 in the Union held some sort of ceremony. By1890, every former state of the Union had adopted it. But for more than 50 years, they still used the holiday to commemorate those killed in the Civil war. It would not be until America’s entry in WWI that the tradition was expanded to all those killed in all wars the US was involved in. It was not until 1970 that it was not officially recognized nationally with the US deeply involved in the Vietnam War.
There are more than 20 towns who claim to be the birthplace of the holiday, but in 1966 President Johnson declared Waterloo, NY, as the official birthplace. They had the first celebration in 1866.
There are many ideas of what the holiday means. Some use it as the summer rite of passage. In the year 2000 the government encouraged people to have a moment of remembrance at 3 p.m. local time. We are also asked to fly our flags at half-staff until 12 noon and then return it to full-staff.
I encourage Bayonne to fly our flags not just for our county but for all those veterans who lost their lives for us to be free. My father and his brother were both veterans. All my mother’s brothers were also veterans. All our cousins and husbands have served as well.
I also encourage Bayonne Veterans to become one group instead of being divided. You can all have your own identities, but as one group, we can see how proud you all are.
Flags can be flown in all weather as long as they are all weather flags. Please also illuminate our flags at night.
I also wanted to say congratulations as the veterans celebrated their 150th year of honor.

JOE BARBERO