Memorial Day’s roots go back to the Civil War.  It was formerly known as Decoration Day, a day when the ladies went out and decorated the graves of fallen soldiers.  Sadly, following the Civil War, there were many soldiers buried in graves far from home and family.  People with means often paid to have their husbands, sons, or fathers brought home.  Not everyone could do this so the south, in particular, is peppered with the graves of those who died in battle, both federal cemeteries and confederate cemeteries.


The first Memorial Day was officially recognized on May 30, 1868, about 3 years after the end of the civil war and really extended only to northern troops, since it spoke of those who had given their lives to squelch ‘the rebellion.’ This proclaimation was given as a General’s Order. 


According to Wiki:


Following the end of the Civil War, many communities set aside a day to mark the end of the war or as a memorial to those who had died. Some of the places creating an early memorial day include Sharpsburg, Maryland, located near Antietam Battlefield; Charleston, South Carolina; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; Petersburg, Virginia; Carbondale, Illinois; Columbus, Mississippi; many communities in Vermont; and some two dozen other cities and towns. These observances coalesced around Decoration Day, honoring the Union dead, and the several Confederate Memorial Days


Moving from past to present, May 30 continued to be recognized as Memorial Day until the concept of the 3 day weekend took hold.  Currently, the last Monday in May is the official federal holiday.  Many veterans consider 3 day weekend holiday offensive and have attempted to move back to the traditional day of observation on May 30.  To date, their efforts have been unsuccessful.  Senator Daniel Inouye has introduced legislation every year since 1987 to return Memorial Day to May 30.


For the past 20 plus years, Rolling Thunder has been a big part of the Washington, DC Memorial Day weekend.  Rolling Thunder mainly focuses on POWs and MIAs who have not yet returned.  Their website gives the details and also has a schedule of weekend activities.  Motorcycle enthusiasts come from all over the United States to honor veterans and in particular, those who are still missing. 


If you hear a rumble and a roar of engines this weekend, it is probably Rolling Thunder.  If you have never seen them roll and roar across Memorial Bridge, it is quite a sight (and sound) to behold. 


Short Version:




Longer Version ( Warning:  some of this video might be found offensive.)



27 Thoughts to “Memorial Day Weekend: Brief History and Rolling Thunder”

  1. Moon-howler

    Mackie, move it please. This is a Memorial Day thread. Was that a Memorial Day Baptist preacher? Try the Immigration Reform Thread. That is an older thread and has to do with….taaaa dahhhhh…immigration.

    [ED. Note-off topic remark removed. Request made above. Administrative decision made]

  2. Witness Too

    Thank you for the history lessons, M-H.

  3. Poor Richard

    FYI – Francis Cannon Post #7589 in Manassas (next to the Fire House)
    is named for an uncle of Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish.
    Francis Cannon was a brother of Mattie Cannon Parrish,
    Hal’s mother. He was killed in WWII.

  4. I don’t think it’s inconsistent with what we should be reflecting upon on Memorial Day.

  5. Moon-howler

    Well Mackie, actually, since it isn’t the thread YOU put up, it isn’t really your decision. I asked you politely to move your comment to another thread. Why must everything be confrontational?

  6. Lafayette

    Mackie is just up to his usual sh!t. I think he truly only comes on this blog to discredit it. It’s bad enough he posts and says the things he says, let alone it’s usually off topic. A mere menace it seems and nothing more.

  7. The idea is that freedom is under assault and needs defending.

    How is that inconsistent?

  8. Moon-howler

    Nice try. Big stretch. And Louis Ramirez is about horse-racing. Right. Just another hi-jacking.

  9. Moon-howler

    President Obama met with members of Rolling Thunder at the White House on Friday. He dropped by while they were talking with the administration about veterans’ issues. The meeting was unexpected because an undisclosed ‘person’ had said that President Obama would not be meeting with them as former President George Bush had done.

  10. Gainesville Resident

    MH, thanks for keeping this very interesting thread on topic, I appreciate it.

    Interesting about Rolling Thunder and the meeting with Obama. I have heard about Rolling Thunder many times in past, very good group. Thanks for posting videos and this thread. I did not know all the historical details on Memorial Day as to how it originated. Very interesting. Indeed, it is a day to honor all our military service members, both present and past. Their efforts and sacrifices have helped make the USA the great country that it is, and as much as Memorial Day in modern times has become the start of summer with thoughts of beaches and barbecues, we should all take a moment to remember the sacrifices of those who’ve served in our Armed Forces, or who are now serving in them.

  11. kelly3406

    This is a very interesting topic, MH. As a veteran who has friends downrange, I thank you for taking the time to research this. You just reminded me that I need to put my flag out, which I always fly during the 3-day Memorial Day weekend.

  12. I did not know all the historical details on Memorial Day as to how it originated. Very interesting. Indeed, it is a day to honor all our military service members, both present and past. Their efforts and sacrifices have helped make the USA the great country that it is, and as much as Memorial Day in modern times has become the start of summer with thoughts of beaches and barbecues, we should all take a moment to remember the sacrifices of those who’ve served in our Armed Forces, or who are now serving in them.

    This is grovelling before the State. I think most of these soldiers just did as ordered without reflection. They killed and died for no good reasons because someone with a spit-polished title told them to go over ‘there’ and kill ‘those people’. In the end, they accomplished little beyond expanding American hegemony. That’s the ugly truth.

    When was the last time our nation was really in danger of invasion? Perhaps the war of 1812. The Japanese attacked us at Pearl Harbor and so we had a legitimate fight with them (although we did things to provoke the attack) but they never really threatened our freedom. It was a fight over whose empire would rule the pacific.

  13. Gainesville Resident

    Mackie, thanks for quoting me, but it is not “grovelling before the State”.

  14. kelly3406

    Thanks for sharing, Mackie. Just curious: Was your statement that “most soldiers just did as ordered without reflection” based on personal experience and observation? Your pronouncement regarding “the ugly truth” is most welcome on this particular weekend — without your brilliant analysis, intellectually challenged military officers would never have a clue regarding the moral ambiguities of war.

    I will not attempt to rebut your statements, as it would be a waste of time. But it is undeniable that the U.S. military has secured your right to express whatever stupid opinions that you want. The purpose of Memorial Day is to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in securing those rights.

  15. It’s distressing to see the type of moral authority the military, an organization that exists solely to kill people, has surreptitiously acquired in the public square. I guess I should be humbled by your restraint. That’s the way the script in our public square is written, huh?

    The U.S. Military ought to be disbanded except in times of war as Thomas Jefferson would have wanted. Lest it be used against it’s own people.

  16. Photos Show Rape of Iraqi Women by US Occupation Forces

    [ED: link removed. Anti-bvbl does not link to pornography]

  17. Speaking on condition of anonymity, one Mexican-American soldier told La Voz de Aztlan, “Maybe the officers didn’t know what was going on, but everybody else did. I have seen literally hundreds of these types of pictures.” Many of the pictures was destroyed last September when the luggage of soldiers was searched as they left Iraq, he said

  18. Moon-howler

    Memorial Day honors those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Many didn’t even have a choice.

  19. kelly3406

    What you say is true, MH. But whether drafted or not, each military member takes an oath of office (see for a description) and swears to defend the Constitution. The purpose of our military really is to defend life and liberty.

  20. Moon-howler

    Absolutely. No argument here, Kelly. I was justing pointing out that regardless of how one views the military, some signed up on their own, and some were drafted. That included within the Confederate States of America also. Some were rounded up at gun point and hauled away to fight.

    Memorial Day honors the deceased. How sad that people feel this is a time to make political statement.

  21. kelly3406

    When I say “drafted”, I refer to an involuntary call-up or stop-loss. Obviously there is no longer a draft.

  22. kelly3406

    Anyway, have a great weekend. And thanks again for your illuminating post.

  23. Moon-howler

    Thanks for your comments, Kelly. You have a good one too!

  24. Elena

    I love the sound of those motorcycles, it is so viseral. It gives me goose bumps! This is the weekend to remember, as we relax with friends and family, there are many of our fellow Americans who are not with family and how great their sacrafice is, in fact, not just their sacrafice, but that of their loved ones too. Whenever I see someone in uniform, I always say “thank you”.

  25. Moon-howler

    I saw a huge gathering up in Fairfax tonight. They were all going to dinner. there must have been 75 cycles. They were definitely revving!

  26. Moon-howler

    There is an excellent human interest story in today’s Washington Post:
    Old Army Buddies
    The Lasting Bonds of the Last Draftees

    by Michael R. Auslin

    He talks of the last generation of men forced by the draft to serve their country. Very interesting and something I had not thought about. My mind has been wrapped around the WWII veterans who are dying at a rate of over a thousand a day. In a very short time, there will be none left. Ask those questions now. I sure wish I had asked more.

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