The original Memorial Day order


Headquarters Grand Army of the Republic,

Washington, D.C., May 5, 1868.


No. 11

I. The 30th day of May, 1868 is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose, among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? [Read more...]

Putting flowers on graves

Many of us will observe Memorial Day by putting flowers on the graves of loved ones.  This custom seems almost universal.  In fact, archaeologists studying the burial site of a stone-age woman have found that the cave dwellers put flowers on her grave.

It’s a beautiful, touching custom.  It feels deeply meaningful, but what does it mean?  Why do you think people do this? [Read more...]

How many Americans have died in combat?

At least 1, 340,000 Americans have died in our nation’s wars, from the Revolution through Afghanistan.  Michael Avramovich breaks down that number in a touching Memorial Day tribute. [Read more...]


My father, a member of the occupying army in Europe just after World War II, died about this time last year.  My wife’s father, who fought at Iwo Jima, also died last year.  There aren’t many World War II veterans left.  Let’s remember and thank God for them today, along with our other veterans and the rest of our honored dead.


Have a happy, but thoughtful Memorial Day.  I know it’s mainly become just the beginning of the summer holidays, the first bratwurst of summer (in the words of Those Darned Accordians).  Enjoy that part of it, but the holiday was started as a commemoration of the war dead.  It’s been extended for many people as a day to remember all of the dead, to decorate graves and to reflect on the memory of family members and other loved ones who have died.  It so happens that for the first time in a long, long time, we are close by the cemetery where generations of my family members have been buried.  We loaded up with flowers and are going to participate in that custom of adorning the graves.  I’m really looking forward to that.  We too may end up in that cemetery some day.  I guess I’ve gotten to the age where that thought really doesn’t bother me anymore.  It’s going to be very meaningful.

At any rate, as we have done before on this blog, use this space to write a memorial to someone you would like to remember on this day.


Pentecost & Memorial Day

Two big holidays this weekend, one in the church year and the other national.  I hope you had a meaningful Pentecost on Sunday and that you will have a meaningful and enjoyable Memorial Day today.

So let’s play a holiday game.  Connect the dots.  What connections can you make between what we celebrate on Pentecost (the gift of the Holy Spirit, the birthday of the Church) and what we celebrate on Memorial Day (the sacrifice of our troops, in some locales the memory of those in general who have died, the beginning of the summer vacation season)?