Pioneer Historical Society        
             McRae Helena, Georgia
                                  Established in 1976

    Pioneer Historical Society       McRae Helena Georgia        
Established in 1976

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Memorial Day

Americans love to celebrate special events. There are important religious and historical holidays and special celebrations like Pizza and Doughnut Days. On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization of Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance for those comrades who had died during the Civil War conflict. Because of this proclamation, an important American commemorative event was created_Decoration Day. By the beginning of the 20th century, the term Memorial Day was used instead of Decoration Day.

General Logan suggested that Decoration Day should be held on May 30 of each year. According to historians, he chose this date because it was not on the anniversary of any Civil War battle, but some suggest that the date was selected because the fresh flowers necessary for decorating the graves were in bloom. With the entry of the United States into World War I, Decoration Day was expanded to include veterans killed in all wars. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 moved Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May, and it became a national holiday in 1971. Many veteran groups disagreed with the date change because they were concerned that Americans would associate the holiday with the first long weekend of summer and not for its purpose of honoring the fallen veterans.

The exact time and location of the first Memorial or Decoration Day has been a source of rivalry between cities for as long as there has been a holiday. Even two Georgia cities, Macon and Columbus, entered the rivalry. The confusion was caused by the fact that during the Civil War, many towns or citizen groups held ceremonies for their dead. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed legislation declaring Waterloo, New York as the “official” birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo was chosen because on May 5, 1866, it hosted an annual community event during which residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

Federal guidelines indicate that the US flag should be flown at half-staff on Memorial Day, but only until noon. At noon it should be raised swiftly to the top of the pole and remain there until sunset. The official time of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time around the country. The wearing of a red poppy as a symbol to honor the fallen veterans has been a tradition since World War I.

There are 1,404 veterans buried in Telfair County. Based on the cemetery headstones, 104 served in the Air Force, 2 served in the Air Service, 913 served in the Army, 13 served in the Army Air Corp., 129 fought in the Civil War, 4 served in the Coast Guard, 41 served in the Marines, 5 served in the Merchant Marine, 186 served in the Navy, 1 was in the Provost Guard, and 6 served, but the Branch of Service was not listed on their headstone. Twelve “ hundred” sixty-three of these veterans served in a conflict with 50% serving in World Wars I and II. “Gone but not forgotten” is a common inspiration on many headstones, but based on the weeds growing over the graves, this is only a quotation and not a promise. Remember our veterans—“lest we forget” the sacrifices of the few for the benefits of the many.