Since 1971, when Memorial Day officially moved from May 30th, to the last Monday in May, there has been a dark controversy brewing. On one side you have the average Americans who waste their entire 3 day Memorial Day weekend spending time with their families, char grilling processed meat, drinking beer, and watching really fast cars make left hand turns. On the other side there are the Memorial Day Purists, who believe the holiday should only be a time to solemnly reflect upon soldiers who have given their lives in service to their country, three day weekend and unofficial start of summer BE DAMNED! The goal of this article is to bring the ideology of these embittered rivals together, and finally bring peace to Memorial Day (and possibly the Middle East), once and for all.
Memorial Day was once known as Decoration Day. It was originally celebrated to honor the soldiers who died in the Civil War. After World War I it was expanded to observe soldiers who died in all wars. Traditionally, the holiday always fell on the 30th of May. Not only were the graves of soldiers decorated with flowers, but the flag would be raised and lowered to half-staff until noon. In 1967, Congress officially made Memorial Day a federal holiday, but the following year passed another resolution to move the date of the holiday to provide a 3 day weekend for American families. This is when all hell broke loose.
No! Decoration Day is not about finding the loudest shirt possible!
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) take major issue with moving the holiday from its original May 30th date.
In their 2002 Memorial Day Address the VFW released this statement:
“Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed a lot to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”
Instead of decorating graves, most Americans prefer to decorate their patios with tacky plastic American flags. Instead of “Taps” we hear the sizzle of hamburgers and hotdogs, and the sounds of children splashing in above ground pools or lawn sprinklers. Could it be that Memorial Day Purists hate the sound of children playing and delicious meats basting in their natural juices? No, of course not. Their only intention is to maintain a sense of respect and reflection for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their country.
Contrary to popular belief, the curmudgeonly old vet doesn’t feed off the tears of children.
Here’s the deal folks. Both sides of this debate are correct. There is no better way to commemorate our fallen soldiers than to enjoy the freedoms and way of life that they so valiantly fought for. I say, watch the Indy 500, bbq your Ballpark Franks, enjoy your beer, but while you spend the several hours it takes to set up your backyard volleyball net, tell your children the real reason we have Memorial Day. Tell them of the brave men and women who gave their lives to defend the American way of life. Tell them what freedom is, and why it is so important to protect. Instead of giving a moment of silence, give a moment of thanks. After all, Memorial Day should be about more than mourning death or throwing backyard parties. It should be about resolution, and the hope that no more people will lose their sons and daughters in wars. For this, we can remember through celebration.