Through travel and interacting with various cultures, Robert Odell has gained invaluable life experiences.
How It Started
Once known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated after the Civil War.
The Civil War:
- ended on a spring day in 1865
- claimed more lives than any U.S. history conflict
- was the catalyst that prompted the first national cemeteries in the United States of America
- by the late 1860s, caused Americans to hold springtime tributes to countless fallen soldiers in many cities and towns
- prompted many Americans to pray and decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers
In time, the passing decades changed the face of Memorial Day. Let's examine what happened to the day initially set aside for pausing, remembering, and honoring.
Facts About Memorial Day
- Citizens observed it on May 30, from 1868 to 1970.
- It became an official federal holiday in 1971.
- It comes every year on the last Monday of May.
Americans celebrate by
- visiting memorials
- visiting cemeteries
- holding family gatherings or
- participating in parades.
At 3:00 p.m. EST time on each Memorial Day, a national moment of remembrance occurs in the United States.
The Changes of Memorial Day
By the twenty-first century, Memorial Day had transformed.
Memorial Day changed into a time to:
- remember all loved ones
- recognize fallen first responders and
- honor recipients of the Medal of Honor.
By the twenty-first century, Memorial Day recognitions included fallen first responders.
Eventually, Memorial Day, or the days surrounding it, became a time to pay homage to Medal of Honor recipients.
Notes About the Medal of Honor
- Presentations are not always on Memorial Day.
- It was first presented during the Civil War on March 25, 1863.
- Although not recognized as a federal holiday, March 25 became National Medal of Honor Day.
- Since its founding during the Civil War, the United States has presented over 3,500 recipients with the Medal of Honor.
What the Medal of Honor Symbolizes
The Medal of Honor symbolizes
- integrity and
Medal of Honor Recipients From Memphis
My hometown, the U.S. city of Memphis, in Shelby County in Tennessee, has reared Medal of Honor recipients Allen James Greer and Walter K. Singleton.
Facts About Allen James Greer
- He was born on August 11, 1878.
- In 1898, he graduated from the University of Tennessee 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.
He Served in the U.S. Infantry
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.
A Show of Great Courage
In the heat of battle, Lieutenant Allen James Greer displayed extraordinary courage. He made a single charge against enemy forces during an attack by armed insurgents.
He Had His Trusty Pistol
With his pistol as his loyal companion, Greer:
- overcame the insurgents single-handedly
- killed one, wounded two, and captured three rebels
- captured enemy rifles and equipment
A Life of Honor
Allen James Greer had an honorable life and career.
He received The Medal of Honor award for:
- displaying extraordinary acts of courage
- exhibiting heroism and bravery at the risk of life
- acting above and beyond the call of duty
Greer retired with Colonel's rank in 1940. He died on March 16, 1964, at age 85. His burial place is in Arlington National Cemetery.
Allen James Greer had an honorable career and retired with Colonel's rank in 1940.
An Important Date
President Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to December 7, 1941, 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).
The Life Of Walter K. Singleton
Walter K. Singleton:
- ran track for Nicholas Blackwell High School
- joined the Marines in 1963
- taught cadets at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island
- was an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis
- received a letter of appreciation for qualifying 100% of the Annapolis Naval Academy's officers-to-be
- served as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps
A Young Man in Combat
On March 24, 1967, twenty-two-year-old Walter found himself stationed in the Republic of Vietnam in Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division. The company performed combat operations in the rural Gio Linh District, Quang Tri Province.
The Wounded Needed Immediate Treatment
Suddenly, enemy forces hit the lead platoon with intense small arms, automatic weapons, rocket, and mortar fire. Because the solidly trenched adversaries shelled out large amounts of enemy fire, Singleton's company suffered many friendly casualties as they fought and moved forward. Sergeant Singleton sensed that the wounded needed treatment as early as possible.
He Saved Men From Danger
Singleton had a relatively safe position at the rear of the first point of the advance. While disregarding his safety, Sergeant Singleton made many trips through the enemy kill zone. He courageously moved several of the injured men out of the dangerous area.
He Forged a Fearless Attack
Noting that a large part of the enemy fire was coming from a hedgerow, Singleton seized a machine gun. Delivering devastating fire as he advanced, he skillfully assaulted the primary enemy location. He then forced his way through the hedgerow directly into the enemy's strong point. Although mortally wounded, Singleton's fearless attack killed eight of the enemy and drove out the rest. He completely disorganized the enemy's defense and saved the lives of many of his comrades.
A Man With a Fighting Spirit
Singleton 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.
Let’s Look at the Bottom Line
Because many awards come posthumously, Memorial Day has morphed into a time to recognize Medal of Honor recipients. 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 that Memorial Day is not a joyous occasion for some people.
Should You Say Happy Memorial Day?
The phrase "Happy Memorial Day" can make some military veterans uncomfortable. A "happy" day is challenging when you've lost your brothers and sisters in arms. Therefore, is it proper to wish military people a "Happy Memorial Day"?
It Is an Innocent Gesture
Many people see Memorial Day weekend as an extra day off from work and the start of summer vacation. Thus, "Happy Memorial Day" is an innocent gesture with good intentions. However, some service members have admitted feeling awkward when people wish them a Happy Memorial Day.
Memorial Day Is Not Veterans Day
Many people get Memorial Day and Veterans Day mixed up. However, they are two very different days. Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have died while serving in the United States military. It is a day for families to grieve, honor, reflect and celebrate the lives of loved ones. Americans observe Veteran's Day every year on November 11. That day honors living veterans and also those who died for their country.
Memorial Day Is a Day of Remembrance
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance. It is a day to pause, pray, and give gratitude. It is a time to remember the millions of brave men and women who have died to protect the freedoms every American enjoys. The day has also morphed into a time to pay homage to loved ones and first responders and honor the recipients of the Medal of Honor. That makes Memorial Day a time to show respect.
Do Not Forget to Remember and Honor
It is no sin to have fun and entertainment on Memorial Day. But we should not neglect to show respect by pausing, remembering, and honoring.
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/.
Lacdan, J. (2021, December 17). Biden awards medal of honor to soldiers. U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved from https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/2877110/biden-awards-medal-of-honor-to-soldiers/
Military.com. (2018, May 22). The history of Memorial Day. Military.com. Retrieved from https://www.military.com/holidays/memorial-day/history-memorial-day.html
"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.