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Durbin Keeney: Sad that we have used our freedoms to cheapen the meaning of holidays honoring soldiers, sailors

There seems to be some confusion about different holidays that relate to veterans. Let's try to clear up what are the major dates if we could. Memorial Day relates to those who "have answered the final Commander's call." This is a day to honor th...

There seems to be some confusion about different holidays that relate to veterans. Let's try to clear up what are the major dates if we could.
Memorial Day relates to those who "have answered the final Commander's call." This is a day to honor the dead, not living veterans and not those currently in uniform. The Monday that is called Memorial Day is part of the three-day holidays created by President Nixon in 1971. The real Memorial Day is May 30. The saddest part of that was the loss of honor, respect and appreciation for those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
Let us remember what General Logan's 11th General Order in 1868 stated when he declared Decoration Day, "Let us, at the appointed time gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise them above the dear old flags they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude .... the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan."
Armed Forces Day -- originally each branch of the armed forces set aside a date to honor the founding of their particular service. On Aug. 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration, May 15, was a result of the unification of the Armed Forces under one department -- the Department of Defense. This is the day to honor those who are currently in uniform.
Veterans' Day was established at the end of World War I which ended on the 11th month, the 11th day and the 11th hour. An act approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November a legal holiday known as "Armistice Day." It was in 1954, after World War II and Korea, Congress amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting the word "Veterans." On June 1, 1954, Nov. 11 became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
Like other holidays, it was part of the 1971 Nixon three-day weekends. The value was being lost just like what happened to Memorial Day. It was quite apparent that the commemoration of Veterans' Day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of Americans, so on Sept. 20, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97, which returned the annual observance of Veterans' Day to its original date of Nov. 11, beginning in 1978.
Dec. 7 is "Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day." This day is to remember the more than 2,000 Americans killed during a sneak attack on the Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by the Imperial Japanese Navy and Air Forces that led to World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to the attack when he said "The Day That Shall Live In Infamy."
Just a final thought. We are free to do as we please with this three-day weekend. The part that really offends me is how most of these special days have become excuses for "the big holiday sales." No one could argue that it is part of freedom, and it is, but it saddens me that we have used our freedoms to cheapen the meaning of these days that should mean so much to all of us Americans.
Freedom did not come cheaply, or without people that have been willing to do what is needed to keep us free. What are we teaching our children about this weekend? We should be teaching them that this is a day set aside for honoring those that died in the name of freedom, and it is not just a day off of school to do whatever they please. That is wrong.
We adults need to take leadership and use this as a teaching moment to help our children and to remind ourselves why we have this day off. If you are enjoying your freedom this weekend, and you should, take time to remember those who "gave all" because they did it for you. Is not that worth a few minutes of your time?
Durbin M. Keeney is commander of American Legion Post No. 71, Duluth.

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