Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, recognizing the family tradition of placing flowers on graves to honor the soldiers, sailors and Marines of the Civil War. John A. Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union soldiers, made these celebrations official in 1868, establishing May 30 as the day for veterans to honor their dead comrades.
Many in the South regarded the holiday as a Northern commemoration and chose dates other than May 30 to remember their Civil War dead. After World War I, there was further debate over whether the country should honor its war dead with a single holiday or whether World War I dead would have their own holiday on Armistice Day in November.
The debate continued until after World War II, when the current purpose of the holidays became established: Memorial Day for honoring the dead, and Armistice Day, renamed Veterans Day, for honoring and thanking the living.
It wasn’t until 1971 that Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday, to be celebrated the last Monday in May.
Here are some local Memorial Day events:
▪ Celebrate Memorial Day, sponsored by Hope Baptist Church, will feature free North Carolina barbecue, military vehicle rides, live music, a children’s obstacle course, parades and more. This free event is open to the public, rain or shine, at 3721 Quarry Road, outside Wake Forest. Event schedule runs from 9 a.m. to 4:15 pm. Website: www.celebratememorialday.com.
▪ The annual service in Cary, sponsored by American Legion Post 67, is from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Hillcrest Cemetery, 600 Page St. Participants are invited to bring lawn chairs. For information, call 919-481-4811 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
▪ A ceremony is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Johnston County Courthouse at Market and Second streets in downtown Smithfield. Mike Wegman, a retired U.S. Navy officer, will speak. He teaches naval science at Smithfield-Selma High School.
▪ A wreath-laying ceremony at the War Memorial on the north lawn of the State Capitol in Raleigh begins at 10:45 a.m. with music by the St. Francis Brass Quintet followed by bagpiper Robert White at 11:20 a.m. and the invocation, advancement of colors and the “Star-Spangled Banner” at 11:30 a.m. Speaker is retired Marine Maj. Gen. Cornell A. Wilson Jr. Sponsored by The Tar Heel Detachment No. 733 of the Marine Corps League.
▪ The Heartland Hospice Memorial Fund will sponsor a Community Memorial Day Service at noon at Raleigh Memorial Park, 7501 Glenwood Ave. There will be refreshments and a balloon release. For details, contact Kristin Lassiter at 919-877-9959.
▪ Garner will hold its annual Memorial Day observance at 1:30 p.m. at Lake Benson Park (921 Buffaloe Road) near the Garner Veterans Memorial. Mayor Ronnie Williams is the keynote speaker. Miss North Carolina 2012 Arlie Honeycutt will sing the national anthem. The Garner Magnet High School Army JROTC Color Guard will present and retire the colors.
▪ The Raleigh Concert Band will perform at the Raleigh Memorial Cemetery, the final resting place for many Union Civil War soldiers, at 501 Rock Quarry Road at 1:30 p.m. Free.
▪ A remembrance by the Town of Cary is 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Veterans Freedom Park, 1513 N. Harrison Ave. The Cary Town Band will participate. Matt Segal, Triangle chapter president of the Military Officers Association of America, and Chris Froeschner, vice president of the USO of North Carolina, are guest speakers. Attendees are invited to bring chairs. Parking will be available at Cary Academy across the street. A free shuttle will take guests from the parking lot to Veterans Freedom Park. For information, call 919-469-4061 or search “Veterans Freedom Park Events” at www.townofcary.org.
▪ The Veterans for Peace will host Memorial Day reflections with poetry, prose and song at 7 p.m. at the Regulator Bookshop, 720 Ninth St., Durham. Free. Speakers include B.J. Freeman, Dale Herman, John Heuer, Joe Moran, the Raging Grannies, Barry Reese, Ahmed Selim, Jim Senter, Douglas Ryder, Vicki Ryder and Sam Winstead. Get more information at 585-314-1413 or email@example.com.