Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, is this coming Monday, May 30. Memorial Day is always observed the last Monday in May and traditionally marks the beginning of summer. It was declared a US federal holiday in 1971 and its origin dates back to the Civil War. It began as a way to remember and honor both Union and Confederate soldiers who were killed during the Civil War. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. On that day Logan declared in General Order No. 11 that:
The 30th 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 churchyard 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.
After WWI, Memorial Day was extended to honor Americans who died in all wars. Today most Americans use this holiday as a time to decorate graves, whether the deceased served in the military or not. For more information about the history of Memorial Day visit Memorial Day History or History.com’s Memorial Day section.
The red poppy has been associated with Memorial Day for nearly 90 years. Since 1922 VFW members and American Legion Auxiliary volunteers have distributed red poppies on Memorial Day weekend in exchange for a contribution to assist disabled and hospitalized veterans. This tradition originated with Moina Michael in 1915. She was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” and came up with the idea to wear a red poppy on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving our nation during war. She then sold poppies to her friends and co-workers and the money went to needy service men. By 1922 the VFW had taken on the project. You can read more about this tradition at The Story Behind the Poppy.
Most towns in our area, including Willshire, Rockford, and Celina, have a Memorial Day parade followed by a ceremony at a local cemetery. The ceremony is usually conducted by the local American Legion or VFW. The American Legion and/or VFW also mark all veterans’ graves with an American flag. These organizations deserve a big Thank You for providing these services year after year.
Remember proper American flag etiquette this weekend. The American flag should be flown at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day. During a parade there may be several participants with a flag, so it is appropriate to salute only the first flag as it passes by. As the first flag passes everyone should show respect by standing at attention with their right hand over their heart. Those in uniform should give their appropriate formal salute.
The following is a list of my collateral ancestors who died while serving our country:
Hallet Bryan (c1836-13 Sep 1863) was the son of Peter and Mary (Huey) Bryan of Jay County, Indiana, and was my 3rd great granduncle. Private Bryan served in Company E, 89th Regiment, Indiana Infantry and was killed in Memphis, Tennessee. He is buried in the Memphis National Cemetery.
Daniel Schumm (2 Mar 1840-8 Feb 1863) was the son of Johann “Jacob” and Hannah (Billman) Schumm and was my 1st cousin 3 times removed. Corporal Daniel Schumm served in the 52nd OVI and never returned home from the Civil War.
John Schumm (30 Mar 1843-28 Oct 1864) was the son of George Martin & Maria (Pflueger) Schumm and was my 1st cousin 3 times removed. Corporal John Schumm served in Company A, 60th OVI. He was wounded and captured in Virginia during the Battle of Petersburg and was imprisoned at Salisbury, North Carolina, where he died.
Carl Schumm was the son of Rev. Ferdinand and Wilhelmina (Brockmeyer) Schumm and was my 2nd cousin twice removed. He was killed in France during WWI.
Ralph J. Derrickson (5 Apr 1925-15 Jan 1945) was the son of Ralph and Alpha (Brewster) Derrickson and was my 1st cousin once removed. Private Derrickson served in the 99th Infantry Division during WWII and was killed during the Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg.
Edgar Schumm (18 Nov 1914-13 Nov 1944) was the son of William & Amanda (Reidenbach) Schumm and was my 3rd cousin once removed. He was killed while serving in WWII.
Victor Schueler (23 Jan 1924-3 Aug 1945) was the son of Adolph and Marie (Limbach) Schueler and was my 4th cousin. Private First Class Schueler was a member of the 85th Mountain Regiment, 10th Mountaineer Division and was killed in Italy during WWII.
Emanuel George Roehm (3 Aug 1931-23 Apr 1951) was the son of Emanuel George and Esther (Ohnesorge) Roehm and was my 4th cousin. Private First Class Roehm was a member of Company C, 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division. He was killed in action while fighting in Korea. Roehm was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and the Republic of Korea War Service Medal. (source: Ancestry.com. WWI, WWII, and Korean War Casualty Listings [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.)
Corey Wayne Ellenberger (19 Oct 1946-12 Jan 1967) was the son of Kenneth & Nola (Charleston) Ellenberger and was my 2nd cousin. Private First Class Ellenberger served as a rifleman in Company L, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division and was killed in South Vietnam. (source: National Archives and Records Administration. Vietnam War: U.S. Military Casualties, 1956-1998 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.)
In December 2000 the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed. This asks all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps’ ” at 3:00 local time.
This Memorial Day, amid the family gatherings, the cookouts, the sales, the Indy 500, and the other things you do when you have the day off work, take a moment to remember the real meaning of this holiday.