‘Decoration Day’ was the root of Memorial Day

 For some, it's just another day off in the middle of a three-day weekend. It's time to take the family up to the high country, where the weather is cooler.

For many in Greenlee County's high desert, Memorial Day weekend signals the start of scorching weather.

For others, it is a day to pay respects to the graves of family members or friends.

The actual designation of Memorial Day is to memorialise those who died serving their country in the military. They may adorn graves with real or plastic flowers or other artefacts.

The history of the day is fascinating. It was previously referred to as "Decoration Day," but it was later renamed "Memorial Day."

The origins of the day can be traced back to the American Civil War. At least a dozen localities in the eastern and southern United States claim to be the genesis of the holiday that became known as Memorial Day.

An event occurred in 1865 near Charleston, South Carolina, according to Snopes, a website noted for its meticulous research and credibility. Nearby was a Confederate-run prisoner of war camp there.

While imprisoned at the POW camp, 257 Union troops were killed. The Yanks were buried in unmarked, haphazard graves.

A group of slaves disinterred the dead and buried them in what they considered dignified and appropriate graves when the war ended in 1865. Flowers and other artefacts were then placed on the graves by the slaves. Their actions were motivated by appreciation for the Union soldiers' efforts to free the slaves.

Decoration Day was renamed several years later. Memorial Day was established by the federal government on the last day of May. For many years, that day and tradition were maintained.

The fourth Monday in May, however, was established as Memorial Day by the United States Congress in the late 1960s. The goal was to make a three-day vacation.

There were others who objected to the change of the day and saw it as a break from a long-standing tradition. Their protests were rejected, especially since the holiday could be extended to three days for Americans.

American Legion Posts around the country will be laying flags on the graves of warriors who can still be identified this weekend. They will do so in Greenlee County cemeteries in Duncan, Clifton, Morenci, and Sheldon.

It may be worthwhile to take the time to consider how many Greenlee residents have sacrificed the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

We're also pleased to know that family members who were not in the military, but who participated and made personal sacrifices in their own way to ensure the freedoms and blessings we enjoy in this, the great United States of America, will be visited and potentially decorated.

Some of us may reflect on the humble beginnings of "Decoration Day" and offer a heartfelt prayer of appreciation to our forefathers and mothers, whether veterans or civilians. It makes no difference what the day is called.