Monday, May 28, is Memorial Day, a federal holiday recognized in all 50 states, the possessions and territories. All government offices will be closed, as will financial institutions, the public library, schools and many private businesses, including the Mesquite Local News.
While most city workers will receive a four-day weekend, not those who work at the municipal landfill. The landfill will close on Memorial Day, but will be opened for its regular hours over the weekend.
In some towns in America, Memorial Day has become little more than the three-day holiday announcing the beginning of the summer season.
In some towns -- but not in Mesquite.
The nation’s war dead will be honored here on Memorial Day at the Veterans Memorial Park, 501 Hillside Dr. The 30-minute service is to start at 8:15 a.m. and will be conducted by the Mesquite Veterans Center and local veterans’ organizations.
All veterans in attendance, whether in uniform or civilian clothes, should remember to render a military salute at the raising of the colors before the flag is lowered to half-staff. All others should place their right hands above their hearts during the somber moment.
According to the website, http://www.usmemorialday.org/backgrnd.html, (USMD.org) Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day and honored those who died during the Civil War.
More than two dozen cities claim to have celebrated the first Memorial Day, but USMD.org, which is dedicated to reminding Americans about the true meaning of the holiday, notes its origins are difficult to prove.
President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966 officially proclaimed Waterloo, N.Y., the birthplace of Memorial Day. But many believe the holiday sprang from separate beginnings when individual communities honored their Civil War dead during the 1860s.
USMD.org says there’s evidence that women’s groups in the South were decorating the graves of their loved ones before that tragic war ended, citing historic sheet music from 1867 that was dedicated "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead."
Gen. John A. Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, on May 5, 1868, called for a national Memorial Day. It was first observed on May 30 of that year when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
New York was the first state to adopt May 30 as an official holiday in 1873. USMD.org says by 1890 the May 30 holiday was recognized by all of the northern states. But the South was slow to accept the date to honor its dead and instead marked separate dates throughout the region for their own war memorial observances.
Following World War I the scope of the holiday was expanded to honor all war dead from all of the nation’s wars, and the South began to celebrate the May 30 date.
But some southern states still mark their own holidays, as well as Memorial Day, to honor their Civil War casualties. Texas sets aside Jan. 19. Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi hold their observances on April 26.
South Carolina celebrates its Civil War memorial day on May 10, while Louisiana and Tennessee make Jefferson Davis’ birthday on June 3 as their memorial observance for the War Between the States.
But the wounds of the Civil War eventually healed enough for May 30 to become the date the nation mourned for its war dead together… until the National Holiday Act of 1971 shattered that formerly sacred date, and moved the holiday to the last Monday in May, creating yet another three-day holiday to encourage travel and recreation.
USMD.org cites that change of date as adding to the erosion of the solemnity of the holiday. The unnamed authors at the site say many Americans no longer remember the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day.
In many communities, the graves of war dead go untended, and few towns still hold Memorial Day parades or observances.
Please, attend Monday’s ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park so Mesquite can never be listed among those communities that have forgotten the meaning of the holiday and sacrifices made that we honor.