written by: Marcy Brown

New Albany National Cemetery

Memorial Day Ceremonies to be held at New Albany and Louisville’s National Cemeteries

If you were asked, what is Memorial Day, what would your response be? A federal holiday that used to be celebrated on May 30 but is now celebrated on the last Monday of May so workers can have a three-day weekend; or a holiday weekend at the end of May when the Indianapolis 500 race is run; or the unofficial start of summer; or, maybe, the weekend that pools open. Those answers reflect what Memorial Day has become, but not what it was intended to be.

Memorial Day originated following the Civil War. Its purpose was, and is, to honor and remember those who have died in service to, and in defense of, this country. Originally, it was called Decoration Day because the Order establishing it stated that it was 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 1868, Decoration Day was to be celebrated on May 30th of every year (and I remember when it was). In 1971, Memorial was designated a national holiday and the date on which it was celebrated became variable, occurring on the last Monday in May, in order to give federal workers a three-day weekend. I think, for a lot of people, that is when the significance of the day began to fade into the background. It became more about the three-day weekend and less about the memorial.

This year, if you have the time, you can visit one of the areas’ three National Cemeteries to pay your respects. Memorial Day Ceremonies are scheduled for May 30th at 1:00 p.m. at New Albany National Cemetery, 1943 Ekin Avenue, New Albany or Cave Hill Cemetery, 701 Baxter Avenue, Louisville; and at 2:00 p.m. at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, 4701 Brownsboro Road, Louisville.

Finally, there’s one other thing we all can do. In 2000, Congress passed The National Moment of Remembrance Act, which asks that at 3:00 p.m. on Memorial Day, wherever we are, each of us stop what we’re doing for one minute to silently reflect and pay our respects to those who died for our freedom. Set a reminder. One Minute.