Decoration Day, the precursor to Memorial Day, was first observed in the United States on May 30, 1868.
Following the loss of more than 600,000 American lives during the Civil War, the date was specifically chosen so it would not coincide with a battle won or lost on either side, but would equally honor and celebrate the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
Lieutenant Colonel Maria Emery, a professor of military science and the commander of the Army ROTC at Wright State, shares the evolution of Memorial Day fondly.
“It’s celebratory. It’s not really supposed to be a sad day. It’s really to honor their sacrifice and their service to the country,” said Emery. “I think the important part is in not losing the history and the stories of our soldiers and their service.”
Whether it be at a community event at a local cemetery or parade or in the back yard over barbeque, Emery believes sharing stories about the sacrifices of our soldiers is appropriate and important for Memorial Day celebration.”
As Army ROTC commander at Wright State, Emery also knows how important it is to pass down the traditions of the holiday to her cadets.
“They will be the stewards of our profession in the Army,” said Emery. “They need to realize that once they are commissioned, they represent the Army. With that comes an expectation of upholding and acknowledging traditions like Memorial Day, to honor those that have sacrificed.”
Today, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, Emery said it is important for our country to embrace, decorate and celebrate with pride this holiday.
“A decoration is more than just a ribbon, a flower or a medal. It is our way of gracing someone’s memory and service with honor. On this unique American holiday we must not forget the prices paid for our freedom,” said Emery. “Our celebration is what truly makes us American. Decorate with pride, decorate with honor and decorate with Army stories.”
Wright State students who want to learn more about Army ROTC should visit http://www.wright.edu/academics/armyrotc/ or contact Vince Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 937-775-2581.