Though it has culturally become the "beginning of summer", Memorial Day's roots are far more somber. President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (November 1863) is considered by some to be the first observance. Less than two years later, as the American Civil War was drawing to a close, two acts of charity many miles apart sowed the seeds for our present-day observance: In Waterloo, New York, a druggist named Henry Welles promoted the idea of decorating the graves of Civil War soldiers with wreaths; and in many communities across the nation Women's Auxiliaries of the North and South shifted their attention from care to families and soldiers to preserving and decorating the graves of the fallen -- regardless of their "side".
In 1868, General John A. Logan, first commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued General Order #11 establishing May 30 as an official memorial day to pay respect to all those who had died, in war or peace. My 'blogfriends at Small Wars Journal have reprinted General Order #11 in its entirety here.
Other 'blogfriends who have commemorated this day include:
Armchair Generalist (noting the impending 9/11 Pentagon Memorial)
Blog them Out of the Stone Age (linking a CBS News piece on Arlington)
Opposed System Design (A brief, poignant post)
Chicago Boys (Lexington Green links to Branagh's brilliant Henry V soliloquy)
ZenPundit (quoting Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.)
Danger Room (Noah Schachtman cites LCol McCrae's In Flanders Fields, a Remembrance Day staple in Canada)
Selil (Prof. Sam Liles on the meaning of "service" and "hero")
And most moving of all, our dear friend Melissa (aka BeeDiva) tells us about the father she never knew.
As you enjoy this day, please pause for a moment to pay homage to those who gave their last full measure of devotion so that we can live in liberty.
Update: Two more 'blogfriends have marked the day:
Hidden Unities (Anchors aweigh!)
interact (Sean critiques post-9/11 safeguards and the sorry state of military procurement)
Update 2: Two more 'blogfriends (O.K., three - but two share a site):
Abu Muqawama (AM himself laments the general public's lack of awareness of our military's service)
Abu Muqawama (Kip offers a poignant essay on what Memorial Day means to him)
tdaxp (Dan graciously links back to this post)