Decoration Day or Memorial Day? – The Suffolk News-Herald

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By Thomas W. Mastaglio

Guest columnist

If you recognize Decoration Day as the unique name for the upcoming holiday, then I can probably guess your age or at least your generation. It’s also mine.

I remember when I was young adults calling May 30 Decorating Day; later it became known as Memorial Day. And then the date of Memorial Day was changed to the last Monday in May, to accommodate the desire to make most holidays three-day weekends. This year we have it on a Monday and on the traditional date.

Decorating Day was recognized shortly after the Civil War in 1868 as a day when family and friends “decorated” the graves of Union veterans (probably also celebrated in the South) with flowers and flags. A common slogan was “they gave it their all” – still appropriate today to recognize Memorial Day.

The holiday started being called Memorial Day after the world wars, but surprisingly it was not designated as a national holiday until 1971. I also remember others misunderstanding its purpose. They would say it was to commemorate any relative or friend who passed through their grave. In recent years, members of my family have also thanked me for my service in the armed forces in recognition of Memorial Day. There are holidays for this: Veterans Day and Armed Forces Day, which, by the way, is traditionally celebrated on the third Saturday in May.

Simply, Memorial Day, this year on Monday, May 30, is set aside to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for the United States in our armed forces. While many view Memorial Day as the start of summer and a time to gather family and friends to picnic and relax, I encourage each of you to take the time to reflect on the service members who gave their lives and to their families who have lost loved ones. those.

Locally, Suffolk and Smithfield both hold Memorial Day services. However, if you cannot attend and wish to find a place for such reflection, the flags on every grave in Horton Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk or those on veterans graves, dating from the time Revolutionary War Memorials at Benn Church Cemetery in Smithfield will provide you with a somber place if you visit them this coming weekend.

So please have a great Memorial Day, take time to honor our lost service members, and enjoy the beautiful summer weather this holiday. But please don’t “wish” me or anyone else a “Happy Memorial Day”. It is a time of reflection and honoring the dead, not of celebration.

Thomas W. Mastaglio is media and publicity coordinator for American Legion Post 49 in Smithfield. His email address is [email protected]

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