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Memorial Day 2008 About ‘Decoration Day’ – QNS.com

Memorial Day 2008 About ‘Decoration Day’

Over two dozen cities and towns proclaim themselves to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, but few have kept the tradition alive as well as Queens. No less than 10 neighborhoods around the borough hold remembrances or parades on or about the last Monday in May, to honor those who gave their lives in defense of the nation.
The first observance came on Thursday evening, May 22, with a remembrance by about 25 people at the Woodhaven Monument near Forest Park.
Sunnyside Gardens held their annual Memorial Day Fair on Saturday, May 24.
On Sunday morning, in Forest Hills, parade participants marched down Metropolitan Avenue, from Ascan Avenue to Remsen Park, a small cemetery named after Jeromus Remsen, who led local militia troops against the British during the Revolutionary War Battle of Long Island.
Paraders also marched in Maspeth and College Point on May 25.
On Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, VFW Post 5298 led off the day with a 9 a.m. parade in Laurelton. They were followed by parades in Glendale, at 11:15 a.m. and two parades at noon.
American Legion Post 272 conducted their parade along Rockaway Boulevard from Belle Harbor to Rockaway. At the same hour in Whitestone, their Veterans Memorial Association held their parade, with Mayor Bloomberg in attendance.
The final observance of the weekend was the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day parade, the largest in the country.
With elections approaching, the parades drew a bumper crop of elected officials and hopefuls. No less than three candidates for mayor appeared at the Little Neck Parade, staying as close to Mayor Bloomberg as they could.
Not to be outdone, no less than three candidates for the City Council seat representing the parade area followed closely.
The parade drew two presidents - Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who has been an Honorary Grand Marshal while in office, and Adolfo Carrion, her counterpart from the Bronx.
It even attracted the Mater Dei High School marching band from the small town of Breese, Illinois, to join the other musicians among the 182 scheduled groups.
During the parade, organizers served thousands of free hot dogs and lemonade. They were supported by volunteers from White Castle who gave out over 5,000 of their famous hamburgers for free.
With thousands of marchers and tens of thousands watching, young and old paid homage to those who wear the uniform, from the World War II vets in their 90s, to teen-aged soldiers, sailors, marines and coast guards awaiting their first deployment.
So, how did all this come to be?
President Lyndon Johnson signed a declaration in May of 1966, naming Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of Memorial Day.
It was there, in a ceremony on May 5, 1866, that all the businesses in town closed, the townspeople flew their flags at half-staff and turned out to place flowers at the graves of the Civil War dead. Waterloo native Air Force Master Sergeant Steven E. Auchman, 37, died from wounds received near Mosul, Iraq on November 9, 2004.
New York was the first to recognize “Decoration Day,” as it was then known, as a state holiday in 1873.
The tradition of organized groups going to cemeteries in springtime, to place flowers at the graves of fallen soldiers, appears to have begun in the South during the Civil War. Over 618,000 Americans died on both sides in that war, from every corner of every state.
One of the earliest references to graveside decoration appears in a hymn by Nella L. Sweet published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping.” It was dedicated, “To the ladies of the South who are decorating the graves of the Confederate Dead.”
In Columbus, Mississippi, on April 25, 1866, a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers. They noticed that the graves of Union soldiers, still considered to be “the enemy,” were neglected.
Moved by the sight of the bare tombstones, the women placed flowers at those graves also.
The first official creation of “Decoration Day” came on May 5, 1868, when General John Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, issued General Order No. 11, setting May 30 as the day when flowers would be placed at the graves of both Union and Confederate dead at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
In part, Logan’s order read: “It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year-to-year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.”
It is thought that May 30 was selected because flowers would be blooming all across the country.
Lingering bitterness over the Civil War left some states in the south refusing to comply, and observing their own “Decoration Day” on other dates.
It was not until after World War I that the day was declared to honor the memory of those who died in all of America’s wars.
In 1971, an act of Congress declared that Memorial Day would be observed on the last Monday in May. On that day, 1,200 soldiers of the U.S. Army’s 3rd Division place flags and flowers on 240,000 graves at Arlington.
Since 2000, “The National Moment of Remembrance” has been observed at 3 p.m. local time throughout the U.S.; Americans are encouraged to observe one minute of silence to remember the fallen.

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