By: Amanda Hansen
Memorial Day began three years after the Civil War ended, when in May 1868 Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30.
It was first called Decoration Day because Logan’s intended purpose for the day was to decorate veteran’s graves with flowers. It is believed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that it was set for May 30 because by that time of the year flowers would be in bloom all across the states.
Today, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May. Most towns and large cities arrange a parade to commemorate the day.
“As I’ve gotten older, Memorial Day has gotten more significant for me. I have an older brother who was in the Marine Corps; thankfully he didn’t die, so Memorial Day doesn’t truly apply to him. However, he was willing to sacrifice his own life for this country and that still means a great deal. When I was younger I never really thought about it, but in the course of growing up and explaining stuff to my son, I’ve gotten a new appreciation for it and what price my brother could have paid to keep us safe, and free,” said Attleboro High School (AHS) science teacher Mrs. Deanna Wells-Scott.
Every year Attleboro’s Memorial Day Parade ends at Capron Park Zoo, where blankets and lawn chairs are set up all over the field lining the street. The procession includes war veterans throwing candy, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, the AHS band, fire trucks, and police cars with their lights flashing and sirens blaring.
“I think Memorial Day is important to those who have lost important people in their life to war. It provides a day to remember them,” said AHS senior Andria Rodrigues.
Memorial Day doesn’t only celebrate the fallen soldiers; it’s dedicated to honoring all veterans, retired, disabled, and current active duty.
AHS English teacher Ms. Adeline Bee is the daughter of a World War II decorated Army retiree, the widow of an Army Captain, and the mother of an Air Force Captain currently stationed overseas.
“Memorial Day means thanking all those veterans and their families for what they’ve given up to keep not just Americans free but to help other people around the world access freedom. We are so lucky to live in the United States, and I am very grateful to all the men and women who serve our country. Their dedication should never be taken for granted,” said Bee.
Even though war is never welcomed or preferred, veterans and active duty members are still risking their lives for the freedom of their country.
“I’m not one for war, and I think wars have started for a lot of stupid reasons but soldiers should be remembered and appreciated. I don’t like what they do but they do it for other people. In some cases, it’s been our only choice,” said AHS freshman Haleigh Robinson.
Some AHS students are related to veterans and Memorial Day is important to their families.
“My grandfather is a Vietnam veteran. Every year we go to the parade and set up chairs in the grass along the street. He wears his veteran hat and a lot of people passing by him will smile and wave or say hello and chat for a couple minutes,” said Robinson.
Robinson’s grandfather, Richard Boultenhouse, 63, of Attleboro was stationed on the USS Agerholm during the Vietnam War and spent three months on the gun lines, firing against North Vietnamese soldiers.
“Things were different then, people were protesting the war and there was no public support for soldiers in Vietnam. When I got leave and was able to stay in the states, I would wear civilian clothes as often as I could. It was like we were ashamed to be Navy men. People could usually still tell though, because of our haircuts and clean shave, and they’d yell rude things at us,” said Boultenhouse.
Today, the wars America is involved in aren’t blamed on the soldiers. Generally, even those who don’t support the war still view soldiers as heroes.
“Memorial Day is important to me because I’m a Vietnam Veteran. Now, veterans are seen as honorable people. Back then, being in Vietnam was something we hid from people. I also think it’s important to member loved ones who have passed, not just veterans who died in war,” said Boultenhouse.
Memorial Day brings Attleboro together. The parade, followed by the speeches given at Capron Park Zoo by Mayor Kevin Dumas, draws large crowds.
On any national holiday, whether it is Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, the feeling of the town changes, even if it’s just for the day.
“I like the parade, obviously, but I also like the speeches the mayor gives at Capron after. It brings the community together and the feeling of the day changes. Just like for the Fourth of July, people come together and everyone’s friendly, for the most part,” said Boultenhouse.
Memorial Day matters to Attleboro, whatever the personal reasons. The community comes together, people are friendly, and Veterans, along with any who have passed are honored and remembered.