If you’re reading this and planning on a Memorial Day coupon-crazy day of shopping, pay close attention – this is for you. It’s stated, obnoxiously and aggressively, year after year, that Memorial Day is not simply a holiday intended to allow for cheaper groceries or pool toys for a weekend. It’s meant to honor fallen soldiers who have created, sustained and allowed us to do whatever it is we do today. I shouldn’t need to explain this, but for some ungrateful souls, Memorial Day isn’t important enough to cherish or honor in the fashion it was initially deemed fit.

Though the majority of Americans are familiar with what this day is meant to remember, not enough are familiar with its origin. It’s something to be remembered. You don’t have to be a fan of America. You don’t have to be a fan of diction or literature. You don’t have to be a fan of war efforts or anything military-related. You don’t even have to be a fan of passion or honor. It’s possible to be lifeless and stoic to all things emotion, and still leave General John A Logan’s General Orders No. 11 with a renewed appreciation, and a tear or two. I’m not the aforementioned stoic, but I certainly cried a little. Like a girl. Okay, I cried a lot, like a crazy pregnant woman. Might have been embarrassing if those tears were inspired from anything other than my appreciation for being an American.

It’s easy to get caught up in your day-to-day agenda and forget how you got there, wherever there might be. There are so many distractions that take away from the beauty in brevity. It’s everywhere. Next time you’re outside, find an ugly tree. An old, beat up, falling apart, withered tree – doesn’t matter what kind or how tall or small. That tree’s grown in American soil. That tree’s seen bad days and good. It’s seen life sprout, and life’s lost. It’s a simple tree. But it’s here because American soldiers have fought for that very land the tree resides on. Beauty in brevity. We’re all the same as that very tree. I don’t care how tough your life has been or will be. You’re still an American, and that’s better than any empirical gift I can imagine. If you can come up with something better, you’re unappreciative.

That American gift comes by way of an unmentionable amount of soldier’s lives. What if someone asked you to die for them so their family and next handful of generations could continue to live here, what would you say? You’d say no. Who would say yes?

…An American soldier. Millions have said yes, since the 18th century. And we’re still here because of them. Memorial Day isn’t meant to honor the lives of those who have died in wars you’re familiar with, it’s meant to remember the entirety of soldiers who have created the open road you’ve found your life on. Memorial Day’s foundation is as beautiful as the very American ground you’re occupying right this second. On May 5th, 1868, General John A. Logan (who, of course, was a Republican ;]) drafted one of the more simple and elegant pieces of writing I’ve ever read. I’m not bias because of Logan’s political affiliation or because I’m turned on by beautiful construction of words collaborated. Again, I could be soulless and emotionless and still find beauty in this piece. On May 5th, 1868, General Logan writes, in his General Orders No. 11:

“The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If our eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from hishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation’s gratitude, the soldier’s and sailor’s widow and orphan.

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.

Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.
By order of

JOHN A. LOGAN,
Commander-in-Chief “

You can detect passion through writing. You don’t have to be James Bond to find General Logan’s passion. If you don’t feel that same passion, you’re less American than you think. Being an American doesn’t simply mean you reside here and pay taxes and/or vote sometimes, if a good game isn’t on. Being an American requires a certain amount of respect and remembrance for those who continue to fight, physically and verbally, for your freedom.

May your words and actions do them justice.

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