May is an important month for the U.S. military, as well as for those who have loved ones serving throughout the Armed Forces. Many people in the United States believe that May 31st is set aside to remember all those who have passed on to the afterlife. Most citizens don’t have a clue when it first began to be observed. This special day of recognition is for the remembrance of those who have fallen in battle, defending our Nation and the tradition began just after the Civil War ended.
In 1865, Henry C. Welles, a druggist in the village of Waterloo, NY, began this tradition to honor the patriotic dead of the Civil War by decorating their graves. In 1866, he discussed his actions with General John B. Murray, Seneca County Clerk. General Murray thought it a great concept and formed a board to formalize this new respectful tradition. The local population embraced this new practice and recognized May 5th as the day to honor all the war dead at local military cemeteries by laying wreaths and flowers on the deceases’ graves.
The first official recognition of Memorial Day as such was issued by General John A. Logan, first commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. This was General Order No. 11 establishing 'Decoration Day' as it was then known. The date of the order was May 5, 1868, exactly two years after Waterloo's first observance. That year Waterloo joined other communities in the nation by having their ceremony on May 30. We now commonly observe this day every May 31st.
This day of remembrance gained even more significance after each major war and conflict in which we sent our military to fight. Not one generation escaped the ordeal of losing a family member or friend to an enemy’s bullet. Today, history is repeating itself again, as our Nation’s security is being paid for with the sacrifice and blood of our armed forces. We all recognize the ongoing combat and act of terrorism our military is facing daily around the world, especially in Iraq. But, do we all pay the proper respect to those that served before us and now serve after us? Only your conscious can answer that question.
This year, Americans will recognize a generation which paid dearly for world peace, by dedicating a National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. This memorial will officially join the company of numerous other memorials to wars and their fallen heroes of the past on May 29, 2004. I fear that the Middle East conflict will cause us to consider building another memorial to honor our fallen brothers and sisters. Freedom is never cheap.
The second important event in May to recognize is the National Military Appreciation Month (NMAM). It was designated in 1999 by Congress, to provide a period encompassing both the history and recognition of our armed services with an in-depth look at the diversity of its individuals and achievements. It allows Americans to educate each generation on the historical impact of our military through the participation of the community with those who serve encouraging patriotism and love for America - a 'reconnecting the Family of America.'
In our daily busy lives, we sometimes forget what sacrifices our soldiers are making on a daily basis and the fear and anguish their family and friends are living through. This is the month to reach out to past and current members of the Armed Forces and their families, thanking them for their service and sacrifice; letting them know we care.
Many of you probably wish to help out, but don’t know how, as we are not allowed to send mail or packages to “any soldier” mail due to the terrorist threat. I sincerely recommend you visit the Fisher House web site and see how much your support is needed and respected. With Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom wounded in action count rising daily, the Fisher House foundation needs your help today. On the surface, your financial donation may seem like it is not very personal or important. But the gratitude from the family members of those whom have fallen in battle protecting our country, is immeasurable.
My personal thanks and respect to all those who have served, are serving and to those who are helping to support our fallen.