What began as honoring the fallen soldiers of the American Civil War evolved into a commemoration of all military men and women that sacrificed their lives in wars to secure the freedom enjoyed by everyone in America.
The first claim of honoring the military was claimed on June 3rd, 1861 when Warrenton, Virginia residents decorated graves of soldiers. There is also authentic documentation that women in Savannah, Georgia decorated soldiers’ graves in 1862. A year afterwards, a cemetery dedication to the fallen soldiers of Gettysburg took place in 1863.
The historians in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania noted that ladies began decorating the soldiers’ graves on July 4th, 1864 which is promoted to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. Without a doubt the Civil War observances was a springboard to the current Memorial Day practices now taking place in our time.
The first community effort to commemorate what is now “Memorial Day” took place in Charleston, South Carolina when a coalition of teachers, missionaries, and black residents organized a May Day celebration in 1865 that honored a little over 257 Union soldiers that died there as prisoners of war at the converted Charleston Race Course. In all the Civil War claimed over 600,000 soldiers which by far represented America’s most deadly conflict.
During the decades that followed, instead of focusing on the nationalism that still existed that separated the Union from the Confederacy, the introduction of honoring all of America’s war dead began to take shape.
The price of freedom began to extend to the conflicts of World War 1 and World War 2 where disputes involving Europe spilled over to the western hemisphere. Warfare was costly and the collateral damage inflicted on civilians was more than the military casualties.
The Korean War involving the United Nations with America doing much of the heavy lifting was the first of a series of political wars where the goal was not to devastate the enemy, but to have a limited war. The same political policies led America into another war with the Vietnam conflict where United States forces never lost a battle, but eventually pulled out due to the unpopularity of the conflict.http://www.history.com/topics/korean-war
Sadly, the United States forces were treated shamefully upon their return home and the psychological damage done to American men and women still remains a sore spot to Vietnam veterans. Only recently has there been any significant effort to honor those serving and the fallen whose sacrifices were just as great if not greater in fighting for the freedom of people they did not even know.
Some anti-war activities involved advocates even going into enemy territory to give aid and comfort to the enemy while American military were being killed on the battlefield and American soldiers captured were being brutalized. These actions are a blight on those that participated in what could easily been classified as treason.
Nevertheless, Memorial Day still stands firm as a day to recognize the supreme sacrifices made by military personnel who lost their lives due to military conflicts both foreign and domestic. Freedom just is not free.
There is a cost to doing something, and a cost to doing nothing.