SHAKO: Memorial Day 2012

May 28, 2012 at 1:00 am 1 comment

Lest We Forget

Sundown at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery, Kansas. The dead rest by the hundreds. (4GWAR photo)

Here in the United States, it is easy to understand why Memorial Day is seen by many as a national holiday that marks the unofficial beginning of summer — especially since its date of observance was changed in 1971 from May 30 to the last Monday in May.

But the holiday started out as a day set aside to decorate the graves of the fallen from the Civil War and to remember their sacrifice. Originally in the North it was known as Decoration Day and Memorial Day in the South. In November, on Veterans Day, we honor the living who have served their country in uniform.

Your 4GWAR editor thought it was important to note — as newspaper editorial writers have done for decades — that Memorial Day is more than a collection of patio furniture sales, ball games, car races, band concerts, picnics and fireworks. It is a day to remember those who made the supreme sacrifice for their country. Their deaths may not have all been heroic — many a warrior succumbed to disease or accident without ever meeting the enemy — but they are all certainly heroes, and deserve at least a pause in holiday activities to be remembered.

Soldiers from the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Regiment, “the Old Guard,” place small flags in front of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery for Memorial Day. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Coffee)

 

SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

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