Today is Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for Americans who died in service to their country. Mike told me all about it on our walk yesterday morning. He said it used to be called Decoration Day and it used to be celebrated on May 30th. He thinks that the name change was probably a good idea but that moving the date from May 30th to the last Monday in May was not, since many people now see it as just another Monday off from work and no longer have a clue as to its meaning.
The date change was part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, to make Federal holidays come with a three-day weekend. Ironically that act also guarantees that George Washington's Birthday can't fall on his real birth date of February 22nd. This is because it specifies the day as the third Monday in February, which can never be later than the 21st. (And the Federal holiday is George Washington's Birthday--or as M says, George Birthington's Wash Day--not "Presidents Day.")
M points out that Washington was actually born February 11, 1732, under the Julian calendar that was in effect then and that this translates to the 22nd under the Gregorian calendar, which replaced it in 1752. But he says that the third Monday in any month also can't be earlier than the 15th. So whichever date you use, M thinks that the Uniform Holiday law is a good example of a more general one--the Law of Unintended Consequences.
I also learned that Memorial (Decoration) Day was originally thought up as a time to place flowers and other decorations on the graves of soldiers who died in the War of the Rebellion. M told me that this war is now usually called the Civil War and that it was different from all of our other wars because both sides fighting in it were Americans. And I thought, hmm . . . that doesn't sound very civil to me. But as I've mentioned before, I'm still struggling with the language, so maybe I missed something.
In any case I think we should take a few minutes today to honor our brave service men and women who throughout the years have died defending our freedoms. What awesome sacrifice! While we're at it we should also appreciate the millions more who fought for us but were lucky enough not to die. Mike found this video of the United States Army Field Band and Soldiers' Chorus performing their famous "Armed Forces Salute" at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand last summer. In it they play and sing the official songs of each service branch: "Anchors Aweigh" for the Navy, "Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder" for the Air Force, "The Marines' Hymn" for the Marine Corps, "Semper Paratus" for the Coast Guard, and "The Army Goes Rolling Along" for the Army. During each song, audience members with a personal connection to that branch stand up and receive a salute from the band's commander. It's a pretty moving piece. I hope you enjoy it and that it brings to mind loved ones of yours who have served in the United States armed forces--and especially those who laid down their lives.
PS - Mike says that video has special significance for him because he grew up being a "Field Band groupie," attending many of their concerts over the years. M's dad--my Grandpa George--fought in World War II with the 3rd Infantry Division and in the late 1940s was a member of the Army Field Band (then known as the Army Ground Forces Band) at Ft. Meade, MD. He played clarinet and was also the band's first drum major. Here is a poster advertising one of the band's 1947 concerts. The picture in it was made from a photograph of Grandpa George.
Makes a pup proud!
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