BY DONNA WESTFALL
145 years of honoring the death of those who died in our nation’s service. That’s Memorial Day. It was May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. These days, American flags as well as flowers are placed graveside.
Moina Michael was a U.S. professor and humanitarian who conceived the idea of using poppies as a symbol of remembrance for those who served in World War I. After the war was over, Michael returned to the University of Georgia and taught a class of disabled servicemen. She saw a need for financial and occupational support and came up with the idea to sell silk poppies to raise money to assist disabled veterans.
Taps began as a revision for the signal of Extinguish Lights (Lights Out) at the end of the day. The music was borrowed from the French. The music for Taps was adapted by Union General Daniel Butterfield for his brigade (Third Brigade, First Division, Fifth Army Corps, Army of the Potomac) in July, 1862. General Butterfield was not pleased with the call for Extinguish Lights, feeling that the call was too formal to signal the days end, and with the help of the brigade bugler, Oliver Willcox Norton (1839-1920), wrote Taps to honor his men while in camp at Harrison’s Landing, Virginia, following the Seven Days battle. These battles took place during the Peninsular Campaign of 1862. The new call, sounded that night in July, 1862, soon spread to other units of the Union Army and was reportedly also used by the Confederates. Taps was made the official bugle call after the war.
Over 125,000 of our American soldiers are buried on foreign soil. The interment of remains of World War I and World War II war dead at permanent overseas American military cemeteries was made by the American Graves Registration Service, quartermaster general of the War Department. When the interment program was completed the cemeteries were turned over to ABMC for maintenance and administration. Host countries do not charge rent or tax to use the land as use of the land was granted in perpetuity by the host country free of charge or taxation.
In our country, monuments honoring veterans are decaying as in Honolulu, Hawaii. In Waikiki the Natatorium, a salt water pool built in 1927, was to honor the 10,000 Hawaiian soldiers who served in World War 1. Today the debate is whether or not to turn it back into beach for tourists or try to demolish or restore it at a cost of millions of dollars.
Could it be that in Europe where history is considered in terms of hundreds of years, they don’t suffer from short term memory syndrome of those in the United States?