I am "Memorial Day on May 30" old. Posts with events or activities from bygone days have become popular on social media — trending, as they say. Until I was a teenager, Memorial Day was the 30th of May regardless of the day of the week. Now Memorial Day is a three day holiday jump-starting the summer vacation season.
Memorial Day was not always a time for folly. General John Logan was the first commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union Civil War veterans. Three years after Lee surrendered, Logan, in early May of 1868, issued General Orders No. 11 proclaiming May 30 the first Memorial Day. Officially almost half of all Americans killed in action died in the American Civil War alone. Some historians argue the long-agreed on figure for Civil War deaths, 620,000, is too low and propose a more accurate range from 650,000-800,000.
When you live in a vacation location on the Gulf, you know Memorial Day means an onslaught of tourists covered in oil along with jam-packed roads and crowded restaurants. For millennia, people have honored the dead by putting flowers on graves. The American Civil War’s scale of casualties spurred what’s now a national holiday, and we should not forget.
Take a break this holiday and find on YouTube Leonard Cohen’s recitation of John Macrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields.” The first line is likely familiar, “In Flanders fields, poppies blow between the crosses row by row.” Macrae noticed poppies growing in early spring on graves. His last verse warns, “Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us, who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.”
More than 50 years ago this weekend, 25 May, 1968, my uncle, 2nd Lieutenant Joe Laslie, was killed in action in Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam. A battalion force from the 320th NVA ambushed his understaffed platoon (2nd Plt. Co E. 2/4 Marines 9th MEB). In an email, a survivor recalled “playing dead in the enemy position most of the day.” The fighting was intense, and many bodies — including Joe’s — were not recovered until 27 May, 1968. A Marine from the 3rd platoon earned the Navy Cross during the three-day battle considered to be one of the last of the Tet Offensive.
My wife and I got married on Memorial Day weekend, May 24, 39 years ago. One of my favorite pictures of my uncle was him holding a cup, I’m sure of iced tea, and a pretty blonde. I’ll have good reason to do the same this weekend and raise a toast. Semper Fi, Uncle Joe. I won’t break faith.
You can’t always get what you want but Buz Livingston, CFP can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit livingstonfinancial.net or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.