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A Memorial Day Message

May 2017 | By Henry Rogers, Interstate Batteries Chaplain

More daylight, warmer days, and summer fun -- there's so much more to Memorial Day. And as Americans, we should never forget why. 

For some, Memorial Day weekend ushers in the summer season when temperatures rise, days get longer, kiddos play or head to camp and water parks open to the delight of children and adults. All true, but there is so much more to this important day.

I always like reminding people why. As Americans we should never forget.

Remember, Memorial Day is different from Veterans Day, when we remember those who served our nation. On Memorial Day, we remember those who have fallen in our nation’s service.  

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers killed in combat. 

At a Memorial Day ceremony in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery, future president and Union Army General James A. Garfield said:

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

Following two world wars in the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all service members who died while serving our country. Since the Revolutionary War, more than 1.3 million Americans have lost their lives defending the freedoms we enjoy.  

Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in local parades.  

Years ago, people would gather with family members (some who would travel long distances) on the Memorial Day and place flowers on graves of our fallen heroes. It was common to hold a religious service with "dinner on the ground," the traditional term for a potluck meal. People would spread the dishes out on sheets or tablecloths on the grass.  

On June 28, 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971.

One young Marine named Jason Dunham was asked why he signed up for a second tour in Iraq, and his answer was simple. “I want to make sure everyone makes it home alive.” He lost his life when he covered a hand grenade with his helmet and body to save the lives of his fellow Marines. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

So how can we show our gratitude today? Fly our nation’s flag, attend a parade, visit a national cemetery and quietly walk the grounds. If you are up for a weekend trip, head to Vicksburg, Mississippi where a deciding battle in the Civil War was fought and won on July 4, 1863. On the park grounds you will find a statue of General John Logan, who helped lead the call for the creation of Memorial Day.

We are blessed at Interstate Batteries to have many men and women who have put on the uniform in defense of our nation, and we are honored to have Barbara Welch, a gold star mother, whose son Robbie is one our nation remembers this Memorial Day.

Poet Thomas Campbell wrote, “The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree.” At Interstate Batteries, we are thankful for the many veterans who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

“Although no sculptured marble should rise to their memory, nor engraved stone bear record of their deeds, yet will their remembrance be as lasting as the land they honored.”
Daniel Webster

May we never forget.

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