Reflections on Memorial Day

For the past seven years, I have been writing a blog nearly every month. My May blogs, which I’ve never missed, have covered topics including downsizing, tiny house living, student loan debt and even something called “net zero houses.”  And there are plenty of housing related seasonal topics I could choose for this May like “getting your house ready for sale”, or “wishing I’d started getting my house ready for sale sooner,” or “dealing with multiple offers” or “why haven’t I gotten any offers on my house,” or “should I worry about rising home mortgage interest rates.” Though our blogs are posted near the end of the month, none of the previous submissions has ever made mention of Memorial Day.

Unlike many of our national holidays, Memorial Day was not conceived by a greeting card company. Although it was not established as a federal holiday by Congress until 1971, its origin goes back to the Civil War era. The Civil War ended on April 9 1865.

On May 5, 1968, under the leadership of Major General John A. Logan, an organization of Union war veterans and the Grand Army of the Republic established Decoration Day.

It was to be a day for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Logan selected the official date as May 30th because by then, flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, more than two dozen communities claim to be originators of the holiday. It is not surprising that there would be widespread interest commemorating the great human sacrifice, given the magnitude of the loss of life during the war. War dead on both sides totaled over 620,000 men. And they were mostly all men. Some historians estimate that there may have been as many as 1,000 women who died in the war, most having disguised themselves as men in order to get into the fight.

According to the federal census, there were only 34 million Americans in 1860, less than 7 million men between the ages of 15 and 40. One in 10 men of fighting age, died in the war. Tens of thousands of black men also died but were considered civilians and not included in the official count.

Acton Memorial Library is dedicated to those who fought and the 29 men from Acton who died during the Civil War. More Americans died during the Civil War than died in all other American wars, including both World Wars, Korea and Viet Nam. Sadly, soldiers are still dying in war: 33 last year.

So, as we take some time off to enjoy the nice spring weather, the long weekend and a short break from selling houses for some of us, let’s reflect on the great sacrifice made on our behalf so that we may enjoy all those flowers in bloom.

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