SHAKO: Memorial Day 2014
The Long Remember.
Memorial Day, by federal law, is commemorated annually on the last Monday in May to honor those who gave their lives for their country. The holiday grew out of local ceremonies throughout the North and South after the American Civil War (1861-1865). In many places the day — traditionally May 30 — was known as Decoration Day for the flowers and flags locals used to decorate soldiers’ and sailors’ graves.
As part of that tradition, there are ceremonies at military cemeteries throughout the United States, as well as speeches, wreath laying and parades of veterans and military units. Over the years, however, the holiday has morphed into the unofficial start of the summer vacation season for picnics, fireworks, concerts, and summer retail sales. But with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan being waged for over a decade, a wider number of Americans are taking time to pause and remember the real reason for the holiday.
Each May in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment – known as The Old Guard because it is the oldest serving unit of the Army – fan out across Arlington National Cemetery’s rolling lines of graves — and in a matter of just a few hours — place thousands of small U.S. flags before each marker and then salute.
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.