Thursday, May 31, 2012
Mississippians helped inspire national observance of Memorial Day
By U.S. Senator
Each year on Memorial Day, Mississippians gather to remember the patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. The solemn ceremonies across our state are heartfelt displays of thanks and respect for the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. I was honored to take part in the Memorial Day events in a number of Mississippi’s small towns this year.
Civil War Beginnings
Mississippians have commemorated the service of fallen soldiers for nearly 150 years. The beginnings of today’s Memorial Day can be traced back to April 25, 1866, when a group of women in Columbus placed flowers on the graves of both Confederate and Union soldiers at Friendship Cemetery. The generosity of these women in decorating every soldier’s marker earned national attention and inspired the poem “The Blue and the Gray” by Francis Miles Finch.
As the third verse describes, “From the silence of sorrowful hours, The desolate mourners go, Lovingly laden with flowers, Alike for the friend and the foe.”
Others across the country may have decorated the graves of Civil War soldiers in their communities, but the Library of Congress describes the gesture of the women in Columbus as “more generous in its distribution of the tributes of honor and mourning.” It played a meaningful role in the emergence of Memorial Day as a national time of remembrance.
We carry on this tradition with patriotic parades and assemblies on the last Monday in May, but saluting our service members and their families should happen every day of the year. One way to show our support is making sure our troops have the resources they need to face new and diverse challenges. Likewise, military heroes of older generations should have quality care. As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs committees, I remain engaged with these issues and committed to ensuring the well-being of every active-duty service member and veteran.
Our state has a proud tradition of military service, with more than 2,000 Mississippians currently deployed. They are part of an extraordinary legacy – and will inspire our future heroes just as past generations inspired them.
Honor Flight Heroes
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are about 22 million veterans nationwide, including 1.7 million from World War II. Last month, I had the great privilege of welcoming veterans from our state to the World War II Memorial in Washington. Ninety-three World War II veterans participated in the special Honor Flight from Gulfport to Washington.
A few days after the trip, one veteran, J.B. Stonecypher, described his experience at the memorial in an editorial letter to The Mississippi Press. He wrote, “Look over the wall with me and think of the 400,000 men who gave their lives for the liberty you now enjoy. If it had not been for these men and God’s grace, you would be living as servants to another nation. In fact, the whole world would be.”
On Memorial Day, this message is a powerful reminder of why we should remember those we have lost. We honor generations of selfless heroes, and we celebrate the freedom they defended.
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