Memorial Day is not just a holiday or sales day. Henry Carter Welles of Waterloo, New York was credited for suggesting a national memorial day. Although Henry was a well known druggist at the time, he would probably be forgotten today by all but his descendants if he did not make a comment to his townspeople in the summer of 1865. At a social gathering, Henry suggested that a day should be set aside to honor the dead of the Civil War. The next year, he repeated his suggestion to General John B. Murray. The two men and a group of local citizens gained the support of the village, and on May 5, 1866, the first complete observance of Memorial Day took place in Waterloo, NY. The Centennial Committee, formed in Waterloo for the 100th observance in 1966, found the newspapers of the time credited Henry for suggesting the first Memorial Day which was nationally proclaimed by General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic by the famous ‘general order 11’ issued on May 5th, 1868. The Memorial Day is observed now on the last Monday of May. One of the most impressive images of WW II photographed by Joe Rosenthal (Associated Press), five marines and a navy corpsman raising the American Flag on top of Mount Sunbachi during the battle of Iwo Jima is often associated with Memorial Day. But this image, made into a statue (referred to as Iwo Jima Memorial), was actually representing all Marines, now located near the Arlington National Cemetery.
Besides thinking about the history of Memorial Day, what I would like to share with all patriotic Americans today is the following thoughts:
Today, we solemnly remember the patriots who fought for our freedom and died for our country, we pay respect to our veterans who served our country to protect us so we may have peace and we salute our service men and women who protect our land and sea so we may have our American way of life freely pursuing prosperity and having justice for all.
As the world is growing and developing, we are facing more challenges today, not only from human affairs but also from nature but we must also remember that our success comes from American ingenuity and hard work. Americans coming from all over the world and settling down in the U.S. are peace loving people. On Memorial Day, As an American citizen, I would like to cite a few quotes from our great leaders to reflect on history and encourage ourselves about the future:
First from the 32nd President, Franklin D. Roosevelt (Democrat):
“This country seeks no conquest. We have no imperial designs. From day to day and year to year, we are establishing a more perfect assurance of peace with our neighbors. We rejoice especially in the prosperity, the stability and the independence of all of the American Republics. We not only earnestly desire peace, but we are moved by a stern determination to avoid those perils that will endanger our peace with the world.”
From another great President, John F Kennedy ((Democrat):
“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.” He also said: “Forgive your enemies but never forget their names.”
From a great heroic President, Dwight D. Eisenhower (Republican):
"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist." He also said: "Together we must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose."
Let’s examine our world today and reflect on the above quotes. Today, sadly we see the world is moving to peril and mutual destruction, the continuous regional wars, the nuclear threat and terrorism around the world on top of natural disasters caused by humans’ abuse of our environment. In our country, it seems that there is ‘the invisible military-industrial complex’ President Eisenhower so warned us about is busy at work nonstop. It pays lobbyists and retired government officials “to bay for war incessantly on K Street, in the Dirksen Senate Building and in election campaigns in regions where the manufacturing of weapons provides the only substantial jobs.” (excerpt from Henry Harris, the Rise of American War Lord by Emanuel Pastreich, an American scholar with BA degree from Yale University, MA from University of Tokyo, PhD from Harvard University, presently mainly active in Korea, an associate professor at Kyung Hee University and director of The Asia Institute ( A Think Tank) in Seoul, who writes on both East Asian classical literature and current issues in international relations and technology.)
Unfortunately, the invisible military-industrial complex is apparently driven by profits from selling weapons, building ships and warplanes, not so much by noble cause. It creates war threat stories to justify the expansion of military budgets and development of weapons and it induces the world to compete in arms capabilities so that the sales of weapons flourish. Since the end of Cold War, the U.S. instead of a long peace, she has been involved in several wars. The worst scenario, of course, is that our government is too easily persuaded by the “invisible complex” to enter war and send our service men and women into harm’s way.
On this Memorial Day, we must reflect on history and the lives that American soldiers sacrificed. Indeed as President Kennedy said, we must not forget the names of our enemies but we must also remember President Eisenhower’s words that we must learn how to compose differences not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose. American citizens must pay attention on what is going on in the world, to see through the invisible forces and speak out openly to warn our government. Let’s hope that the leaders of our country will hear from us, common folks, not just the lobbying voices. We also hope that the leaders of this world will ponder on the above words spoken with experience and wisdom, especially on how to compose differences with intellect and decent purpose, not with arms and guide our world in peace and to prosperity.