Memorial Day has evolved since its inception just after the Civil War. Then, it was a day traditionally to decorate the graves of the 600,000 war dead from the North and, particularly, the South.
As the years passed, it became a day to honor servicemen killed in all wars, though it was not declared the federal holiday Memorial Day until 1967.
The following year, Congress passed a law moving four annual holidays, including Memorial Day, to Mondays, regardless of their traditional dates.
That rankled some military veterans, who believed the annual date ought to be retained and honored. Among them was Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who introduced legislation every year to countermand that law. Nevertheless, the last Monday of May survives as our Memorial Day.
The move to Monday does have this effect, pleasant for some, unpleasant for others: It creates an atmosphere more befitting a holiday than a memorial.
Most people are off work. The most important things they have to remember are enough tees for the golf course or enough towels for the beach.
But the main intent of Memorial Day in the post-Civil War era is to honor America’s military members who died in the service of their country. This differentiates it from Veterans Day, in November, which pays tribute to all men and women who have served in the military.
In the spirit of Memorial Day, special events are planned around the North Country.
Last Wednesday, State Police Troop B, which covers the North Country, held its annual services at Ray Brook Headquarters. That was the first of numerous remembrances and celebrations that will take place throughout the North Country and the nation as it commemorates the efforts of those who died in the line of duty.
On Monday, people who want to show their respect for fallen veterans can attend a Memorial Day parade and service starting at 9 a.m. at the American Legion Posts of Elizabethtown and Lewis. A parade will also be held at 10 a.m. in Malone, with ceremonies at Veterans Park, American Legion Post 219, Recreation Park and AmVets Post 8. Services will also be held Monday at 11 a.m. in three sites: Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 309 in Peru, American Legion Post 20 in Plattsburgh and Veterans Park, AuSable Forks, sponsored by American Legion Post 504.