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This week’s edition!

Enough is Enough: This Memorial Day weekend, swear that you will never forget

By Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

“God with a roll of honor in his hand

Sits welcoming the heroes who have died

While sorrowless angels ranked on either side

Stand easy in Elysium’s meadow land.”

The Investiture—Siegfried Sassoon

This coming Monday is Memorial Day—a day to honor those who went off to war and ended up paying the supreme sacrifice. If you could speak to them what words would you use to convey and acknowledge to them your appreciation for their sacrifice, a sacrifice that allows you to live a life of comfort and freedom?

How many are aware of the history of this holiday?

Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War, a war that saw death, maiming and destruction on an unprecedented scale, drastically reducing a generation of American youth, from both the North and the South. Over 600,000 would never return home.

In 1866 a veterans’ organization, The Grand Army of the Republic, was founded by Benjamin Stephanson of Decataur, Illinois. This was a fraternal organization made up of honorably discharged Union Civil War veterans who had served in the Army, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard. It subsequently evolved into a veterans group that sought pensions and benefits for their members. It also sought voting rights for its former black military members.

On May 5, 1868, General John Logan, the National Commander of the GAR, issued General Order No. 11 declaring and establishing May 30 of each year as Decoration Day. On this date the graves of Union soldiers would be decorated with flowers. This custom pertained to those states north of the Mason Dixon Line.

On June 10, 1889, the United Confederate Veterans were formed by Joseph Shipp in New Orleans, Louisiana. The organization consisted of Army, Navy and Marine veterans of the Confederacy. They set up their own version of Decoration Day, which would be celebrated on various days in the month of April.

This separation of Memorial Day celebrations continued until shortly after the end of the Great War—World War I, a war whose scenes of death and horror matched the savagery of the American Civil War. The realization of the slaughter of American youth appears to have brought the country to its senses. The day was then changed to honoring all our country’s war dead.

With the passage by Congress of the National Holiday Act of 1971, Memorial Day was established as a national holiday celebrated on the last Monday of May. This made it a three-day weekend celebration.

So what will you be doing this weekend? Will you be at a beach with family and friends kicking off the start of the summer? Will you be at a family barbecue? Will you be shopping at the mall? Maybe just relaxing around the house?

Or will you take time at some point during the weekend to attend one of the many ceremonies to honor those dead whose sacrifice allows you to enjoy the weekend?

In his poem, “Aftermath,” Sassoon details the horrors of war, closing his poem by asking, “Have you forgotten yet? . . . Look up, and swear by the green of Spring that you’ll never forget.”

When we cease as a country to remember and no longer honor our war dead, we cease to be a country.

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