More than 600,000 Union and Confederate soldiers had died by the time Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant to end the War Between the States in 1865.
Even before the war had ended, women living in the Confederacy had been “decorating” the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers. After the war, the now reunited nation joined in grief and sorrow to embrace this solemn act of remembrance.
On May 5, 1868, John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, ordered that Decoration Day be formally observed each year.
He chose May 30 as the date of remembrance. With electric refrigeration nearly a half-century away, this was the optimal time to buy and gather fresh-cut flowers.
While Memorial Day was first substituted for Decoration Day in 1882, it did not enter common usage until after World War II. Federal law made the name change official in 1967.
Americans have observed Memorial Day on the final Monday of May since 1971, following passage of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in 1968. That is why many of us will be eating hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and potato salad this afternoon.
FREEDOM, LIBERTY, SECURITY
Unfortunately, many more young men and women have joined the soldiers and sailors who died after the Civil War.
Nearly 125,000 U.S. personnel died during World War I. This number more than tripled to nearly 425,000 during World War II. Another 35,000 Americans died during the Korean War, while nearly 60,000 died in the Vietnam War.
We are fortunate that brave young men and women continue to enlist in the armed forces, because freedom, liberty and national security can never be taken for granted.
Today, more than 2 million active and reserve personnel are committed to “fight and win our nation’s wars” – the mission of our Army.
Following the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil on Sept. 11, 2001, more than 2.5 million volunteers have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones.
Just as these men and women have devoted themselves to our nation’s security, we must support their successful return to civilian life.
We can start with offers of employment. As the school year ends and employers prepare to recruit college and post-graduate candidates, they also should recruit veterans with equal enthusiasm.
SKILLED AND PRINCIPLED
U.S. military veterans have been trained to form a cohesive, dedicated and skilled team. Skills developed and the principles practiced in the military can be successfully transferred to both large and small workplaces across our country.
These young men and women can be counted on to help individual businesses in a wide variety of industries now and in the future.
Employers should realize that by hiring a trained veteran, they are adding a mature man or woman who brings significant value to their organization.
SUCCESS UNDER STRESS
As Carol Roth, a small-business advocate and media host, has written, “When you have prepared for combat, you are more than prepared to take on the business battlefield.”
Veterans, as a result of their experience responding to hazardous situations and making difficult choices, are inimitably qualified to thrive under stressful conditions.
While others might look for the exit, veterans have been trained to dig in and seek a path to victory.
Military service members, who represent less than 1 percent of our population, make an oversized contribution to our nation’s security and well-being.
By offering the wherewithal to support themselves and their families, each one of us can humbly begin to pay them back.
Based in Warrington, Kirk Salmon is a fourth-generation Purple Heart recipient. He is a sales and relationship manager concentrating on the Lehigh Valley at KMRD Partners Inc., a risk and human capital management consulting and insurance brokerage firm with three offices in southeastern Pennsylvania. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.