Robert Odell, Jr. enjoys sharing the rich history and culture of Memphis, Tennessee, where he has lived and worked for several years.
In the United States, Memorial Day comes every year on the last Monday of May. It's when Americans sincerely offer condolences and thanks to families with loved ones and friends who died while serving in the United States Military. It has also become a time to pay homage to recipients of the nation's highest and most prestigious military decoration, the highly esteemed Medal of Honor.
Formerly known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War. The Civil War, which ended on a spring day in 1865, claimed more lives than any U.S. history conflict. It was the catalyst that initiated the establishment of the fledgling country's first national cemeteries. Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971. Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting memorials, cemeteries, holding family gatherings, or participating in parades.
By the late 1860s, Americans in many cities and towns began holding springtime tributes to countless fallen soldiers. They prayed and decorated the graves of loved ones with flowers.
At 3:00 p.m. EST time on each Memorial Day, a national moment of remembrance occurs in the United States.
A Time to Honor
Eventually, Memorial Day, or the days close to it, became a time to pay homage to those who have received America's most prestigious and highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor. Although the Medal of Honor presentations are not always on Memorial Day, the day has morphed into a time to reflect on the distinguished deeds of valor of American service personnel. The first presentation of the Medal of Honor was during the Civil War on March 25, 1863. Although not recognized as a federal holiday, March 25 became National Medal of Honor Day. The medal has been presented to roughly 3,500 recipients since its founding during the Civil War. It symbolizes the timeless American ideals of courage, patriotism, sacrifice, integrity, and humility. My hometown, the U.S. city of Memphis, located in Shelby County in Tennessee, has raised some Medal of Honor Recipients. One of which was in the Philippine Insurrection in 1901. Another recipient was in the Vietnam War in 1967.
Allen James Greer
Born August 11, 1878, Allen James Greer graduated from the University of Tennessee in 1898 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. During World War II (September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945), he wrote articles for the North American Newspaper Alliance.
During the Philippine War (February 4, 1899, to July 2, 1902), Greer served as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, 4th Infantry. On July 2, 1901, twenty-two-year-old Allen Greer got stationed near Majada, Laguna Province, Philippine Islands.
During an attack by armed insurgents, Lieutenant Greer made a single charge against enemy forces. Greer, his pistol as his loyal companion, overcame single-handedly, killing one, wounding two, and capturing three insurgents with their rifles and equipment.
Lieutenant Allen James Greer displayed extraordinary acts of courage. He exhibited heroism and bravery at the risk of his life. Above and beyond the call of duty, Greer's actions resulted in his receiving the highest and most prestigious personal military decoration the United States of America had to offer, The Medal of Honor. Allen James Greer went on to have an honorable career and retired with Colonel's rank in 1940. He died on March 16, 1964, at the age of 85. His burial place is in Arlington National Cemetery.
Walter K. Singleton
December 7, 1941, was referred to by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt as "a date which will live in infamy." The United States catapulted into World War II after Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Territory. Three years later, on that same day, Walter K. Singleton was born in Memphis, Tennessee (December 7, 1944).
Before joining the Marines in 1963, Singleton ran track for Nicholas Blackwell High School. "As fate would have it," he grew to uphold the highest standards of the U.S. Naval Service. Walter shared his knowledge and skills by serving as an instructor in the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island. He also taught at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, where he received a letter of appreciation for qualifying 100% of the officers-to-be. He exhibited a steadfast fighting spirit as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps.
On March 24, 1967, twenty-two-year-old Walter found himself stationed in the Republic of Vietnam as a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division. The company was performing combat operations in the rural Gio Linh District, Quang Tri Province. Suddenly, enemy forces hit the lead platoon with intense small arms, automatic weapons, rocket, and mortar fire. Because the solidly trenched adversaries shelled out an incredible amount of heavy enemy fire, Singleton's company suffered numerous friendly casualties as they fought their way forward. Sergeant Singleton sensed that the wounded needed treatment as early as possible.
Singleton had a relatively safe position in the rear of the first point of the advance. Disregarding his safety, Sergeant Singleton made several trips through the enemy killing zone, moving several injured men out of the danger area. Noting that a large part of the enemy fire was coming from a hedgerow, Singelton seized a machine gun. He skillfully assaulted the key enemy location, delivering devastating fire as he advanced. He forced his way through the hedgerow directly into the enemy's strong point. Although mortally wounded, his fearless attack killed eight of the enemy and drove out the remainder from the hedgerow. Singleton completely disorganized the enemy defense and saved the lives of many of his comrades.
Singelton displayed a selfless devotion to duty and a fighting spirit that would not yield. His actions led to his receiving the highest military decoration presented by the United States government to a member of its armed forces, The Medal of Honor.
Should You Say Happy Memorial Day?
Memorial Day is more than barbecues and backyard parties. Taking the time to say the right thing will mean a great deal to the comrades, friends, families, and love ones who have faced unmentionable atrocities for America. Over 1.3 million military personal have given their lives for the United States of America. That fact can make saying "happy" Memorial Day feel a little awkward sometimes.
Many service members have lost friends seen as brothers and sisters. Individuals who lived through the death of colleagues weren't "happy." The bottom line is, Memorial Day is not a happy occasion for some people.
Many people have come to see Memorial Day weekend as an extra day off from work and the start of summer vacation time. Thus, saying, "Happy Memorial Day," is an innocent gesture with good intentions. However, some service members have admitted to feeling a little awkward when people wish them a Happy Memorial Day.
Being thanked for their service makes a few of our military people feel uncomfortable. Some feel they're just doing their job. Others don't feel the gratitude is sincere. Being thanked and wished a Happy Memorial Day for your service is often awkward. The gesture could even be offensive to some, especially while they are alive and standing. When you've lost your brothers and sisters in arms, it is difficult to have a "happy" day. Many people get Memorial Day and Veterans Day mixed up. However, they are two very different days.
Memorial Day Isn't Veterans Day
Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have given their lives in service to the United States of America. It is a day for families to grieve, honor, reflect and celebrate the lives of loved ones. Veterans Day is observed every year on November 11 and recognizes all who have served in the military. That day honors living veterans and also those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
A Day of Remembrance
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. It is a day to pause, pray, and give gratitude. It is time to remember the 1.3 million brave men and women who have died to protect the very freedoms that we are privileged to enjoy every day in America. It is no sin to have fun and entertainment on Memorial Day. But we should not neglect to pause and to remember.
What Do You Think?
"Happy Memorial Day - Why You Shouldn't Say It." Country Life City Wife, May 27, 2016, www.countrylifecitywife.com/2016/05/please-dont-say-happy-memorial-day/.
"National Medal of Honor Museum." The National Medal of Honor Museum, May 27, 2020, mohmuseum.org/.
Philpott, Sarah. "Why I No Longer Say 'Happy Memorial Day.'" BonBon Break, 25 May 2016, www.bonbonbreak.com/no-longer-say-happy-memorial-day/.
Sturk, B. (2020, March 25). National Medal of Honor Day. Retrieved from https://www.aetc.af.mil/News/Article/2125520/national-medal-of-honor-day/#:~:text=This%20date%20was%20chosen%20because,have%20died%20serving%20our%20country. 325th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
"Tennessee Recipients." National Medal of Honor Heritage Center, www.mohhc.org/about/tennessee-recipients/.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Robert Odell Jr
Robert Odell Jr (author) from Memphis, Tennessee on June 01, 2020:
Thank you. I appreciate your comments.
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 01, 2020:
Thanks for giving us the opportunity to say thanks to Lieutenant Allen James Greer and Sergeant Walter K. Singleton. Thanks to you also for sharing their stories of bravery and loyalty.