I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden, it must be here beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung. With words we make promises, plight faith, praise virtue. Promises may not be kept; plighted faith may be broken; and vaunted virtue be only the cunning mask of vice. We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue. For the noblest man that lives, there still remains a conflict. He must still withstand the assaults of time and fortune, must still be assailed with temptations, before which lofty natures have fallen; but with these the conflict ended, the victory was won, when death stamped on them the great seal of heroic character, and closed a record which years can never blot.
– General James Garfield, Decoration Day Address, 1868
Before it was called Memorial Day, our holiday to honor and remember our fallen war heroes was known as Decoration Day. On May 30, 1868 James Garfield, who would become the 20th president of the United States 13 years later, gave one of the most inspiring and heart wrenching speeches I have ever read at the first ever Decoration Day in Arlington National Cemetery. Almost 150 years later and there are still no better words to convey how I feel about those who have bravely lain down their lives for my freedoms.
The holiday was originally observed on May 30 of each year, with the name slowly becoming more commonly called Memorial Day after WWII. It was officially declared Memorial Day by federal law in 1967. In June of 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which moved Memorial Day to the last Monday of May. Three other holidays were also moved, this placed each of them on a Monday to allow for a three day weekend.
Here in Oklahoma there is a long tradition of celebrating by going to one of the wonderful lakes and rivers this state has to offer. Taking this long weekend to go and spend time with family and friends. A lot of people take the time to visit grave sites of fallen loved ones. This year my plan was to take my family to the 45th Infantry Museum on Memorial Day.
The museum is located at 2145 NE 36th St and will be having a ceremony at 10 a.m. to honor those who have lost their lives serving our country. Admission to the museum is free. Opening to the public on September 27, 1976, it contains over 60 military vehicles, Bill Mauldin’s personal collection of World War II cartoons, and the Jordan B. Reaves American Military Weapons Collection. Go for the ceremony, stay for the rich history and amazing displays.
There are a few other places here in Oklahoma that are having Memorial Day events, and you can see a list of some on NewsOK. If you don’t see anything listed for your area, then contact your local Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, or even a local museum.
Most importantly, whatever you do this weekend, no mater who you are with or where you are, take just a couple of moments and silently give thanks to the bravest men and women you will never meet. Remember that weather you agree with where they fight or for the politics behind the fight, these selfless individuals have given everything for you.