Memorial Day

This Monday, May 29th is the official holiday titled ‘Memorial Day’ with banks, schools, and the post office closed. But it is not the true original Memorial Day of Saturday, May 30th.

It is a Federal holiday to take time to remember the military personnel (men and women) who died in the service of the nation. Its beginnings are after the American Civil War (1865) and was known as ‘Decoration Day’ – DecorationDayMcCutcheonthat time to place flowers on the graves of the thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers. Of course flowers were already being placed on soldiers’ graves throughout the war.

This practice quickly spread, by 1868 some183 cemeteries in 27 states were decorated with flowers on the grave in late May and by 1869 there were 336 cemeteries across the country participating. Not just flowers on graves but soon there were speeches and parades held.

The name Memorial Day came more in use in the 20th century and was made official in 1967. It changed from May 30th to the last Monday of May to make a 3-day holiday by Federal law effective in 1971.

Hopefully one of the aspects of doing your family history is to note all the ancestors who died while in the military service. That would include those who were so injured, but survived a few years later after leaving the service to then died from those injuries. That happened many times.

Here is one family story of a soldier who didn’t return home: 1969-richard lefflerRichard J. Leffler, nicknamed “Rich” of Miami, FL. After high school graduation in 1966 he joined the US Marine Corp. After training and assignments in the states, US Marine Cpl. Richard Leffler’s orders were for a tour in Vietnam and he was sent overseas, reaching there on June 24, 1969. He was part of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364 (HMM-364), known as “Purple Foxes“. On November 29, 1969, the crew of six and one passenger, a medical observer, took off in their YK-9 helicopter, Cpl. Leffler serving as crew chief. They were to evacuate a seriously wounded Marine in the southern Quang Nam province, south of Landing Zone Ross. In route the helicopter had been shot at by the Viet Conq and crashed to the ground killing all on board.

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