In 1868, John A. Logan, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (a fraternal organization for Union veterans) issued “General Order Number 11,” designating May 30 as
a memorial day, to be set aside "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 churchyard in the land."
In 1866, just a year after the end of the American Civil War, the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia passed a resolution to set aside one day annually to memorialize the Confederate dead, and even today throughout the South “Confederate Memorial Day” is observed as a state holiday with many government offices and businesses closed.
The common denominator in the establishment of these observances, because holiday is really not the right word to convey their intent, is the recognition of the death of over 600,000 Americans – the Civil War’s terrible cost that was reckoned-up in “almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land."
Today, that terrible cost is rarely given any specific public acknowledgement. It seems somehow quaintly Victorian to dwell on war’s ultimate byproduct: death.
And of course, acknowledging that when politicians decide to go to war the death of many of those they send ensues certainly puts a damper on the unofficial beginning of summer picnic season.
But those who established Memorial Day knew war’s terrible cost intimately and, while they held to the justness of their respective causes, they were firm in their resolve that the deaths of those hundreds of thousands lost in the Civil War should not be forgotten.
In the 150 years since the Civil War ended, and Americans began taking a day in May to remember the Civil War’s fallen, many more American war dead have joined those of the Civil War in our Nation’s cemeteries.
It is worth noting that back when the original purpose of Memorial Day was fresh in the minds of Americans, it seems that politicians and elected officials were not nearly so quick to advocate the use of military force, and the notion that we Americans might engage in “nation building” in far off lands or spread western democracy at the point of a gun was a minority view at best.
As the Civil War has receded into history the first to forget the day’s true purpose seem to be the politicians.
So, this Memorial Day we propose a resolution – it doesn’t have to be a formal one passed by Congress – but a mental one to be adopted by every American elected official, editorial writer, commentator, and opinion leader:
Be it resolved that no American will be sent by their government to fight in a war unless there is a clear national interest for the United States and an unconditional commitment to victory.
Let it be further resolved that no more Americans will be asked to give their lives while politicians blunder around trying to figure out who we are fighting and what we are fighting for.
And finally, let it be resolved that no American will be sent to their death in a war where the government’s first thought is not victory, but what is our exit strategy.
This year, as politicians in some quarters are once again beating the drums for “intervention” in various hot spots around the globe, the best thing we can do to honor our fallen is to promise them, and their families, that not one more American will be sacrificed due to the hubris, ineptitude, or cowardice of a politician.
Pictured above (in alphabetical, not photographic order) are the 13 US service members killed in the evacuation of Kabul ordered by President Biden:
Lance Cpl. David L. Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo, Texas
Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento, California
Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City, Utah
Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corryton, Tennessee
Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio, California
Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20, of Jackson, Wyoming
Lance Cpl. Dylan R. Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga, California
Lance Cpl. Kareem M. Nikoui, 20, of Norco, California
Cpl. Daegan W. Page, 23, of Omaha, Nebraska
Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts
Cpl. Humberto A. Sanchez, 22, of Logansport, Indiana
Lance Cpl. Jared M. Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles, Missouri
Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviak, 22, of Berlin Heights, Ohio