Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — “O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!”
— America, the Beautiful, by Katharine Lee Bates, 1913
These are the lyrics to the third verse of one of our most beautiful patriotic songs. Through the decades, many U.S. citizens have expressed the feeling that “America the Beautiful” should be our “second” national anthem because of its imagery and patriotism.
I was particularly touched by the words of the third verse as I was planning the songs for our church this Memorial Day weekend. I am reminded of what it means to be a hero in service of one’s country.
Memorial Day, is not just a day for parties and picnics. It’s a day of remembrance for those men and women who gave their lives while serving in all branches of the U.S. armed forces. In my heart, these are the ultimate heroes of patriotism.
It was originally called Decoration Day and was established to honor both the Union and Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War. According to usmemorialday.org, General John Logan, commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, first officially proclaimed Memorial Day in 1868. It was originally observed on May 30, and flowers were placed on the graves of Civil War soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. In 1873, New York was the first state to officially recognize the holiday.
The complete origins of Memorial Day are varied, with dozens of cities and towns laying claim to its beginnings. In truth, so many Americans had died during the Civil war, that prior to General Logan’s proclamation, numerous towns and villages across the nation had already begun to hold ceremonies and services to honor the fallen war heroes.