Memorial Day, 2007

Contributed by AGCM Fred Baillie, USN, Ret.

Memorial Day, also called Decoration Day, is a patriotic holiday in the United States. It is a day to honor Americans who gave their lives for their country. Originally, Memorial Day honored military personnel who died in the Civil War (1861-1865). The holiday now also honors those who died in any war while serving the United States.

Memorial Day is a legal holiday in most states. Most Northern States and some Southern States observe Memorial Day the last Monday in May. This date was made a federal holiday by a law that became effective in 1971. Most of the Southern States also have their own days for honoring the Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrates the last Monday in April as Confederate Memorial Day. Alabama celebrates on the fourth Monday in April. Georgia observes this holiday on April 26. North Carolina and South Carolina celebrate it on May 10. Virginia observes the holiday on the last Monday in May. Louisiana observes it on June 3, and Tennessee has a holiday called Confederate Decoration Day on that date. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day on January 19.


On Memorial Day, people place flowers and flags on the graves of military personnel. Many organizations, including Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and fraternal groups, march in military parades and take part in special programs. These programs often include the reading of Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” Memorials are often dedicated on this day. Military exercises and special programs are held at Gettysburg National Military Park and at the National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. In addition, to honor those who died at sea, some United States ports organize ceremonies in which miniature ships filled with flowers are set afloat on the water.

Since the end of World War I, Memorial Day has also been Poppy Day. Volunteers sell small, red artificial poppies in order to help disabled veterans. In recent years, the custom has grown in most families to decorate the graves of loved ones on Memorial Day.


Several communities claim to have originated Memorial Day. But in 1966, the U.S. government proclaimed Waterloo, New York, the birthplace of the holiday. The people of Waterloo first observed Memorial Day on May 5, 1866, to honor soldiers killed in the American Civil War. Businesses closed, and people decorated soldiers’ graves and flew flags at half-mast.

Major General John A. Logan in 1868 named May 30 as a special day for honoring the graves of Union soldiers. Logan served as commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans of the Civil War. They had charge of Memorial Day celebrations in the Northern States for many years. The American Legion took over this duty after World War I.

The Origins of Memorial Day

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of former Union soldiers and sailors – the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) – established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared it should be May 30. The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The cemetery already held the remains of 20,000 Union dead and several hundred Confederate dead.

The ceremonies centered around the mourning-draped veranda of the Arlington mansion, once the home of Gen. Robert E. Lee. Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant and other Washington officials presided. After speeches, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers and singing hymns.

Local Observances Claim To Be First

Local springtime tributes to the Civil War dead already had been held in various places. One of the first occurred in Columbus, Miss., April 25, 1866, when a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. Nearby were the graves of Union soldiers, neglected because they were the enemy. Disturbed at the sight of the bare graves, the women placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.

Today, cities in the North and the South claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1866. Both Macon and Columbus, Ga., claim the title, as well as Richmond, Va. The village of Boalsburg, Pa., claims it began there two years earlier. A stone in a Carbondale, Ill., cemetery carries the statement that the first Decoration Day cere- mony took place there on April 29, 1866. Carbondale was the wartime home of Gen. Logan. Approximately 25 places have been named in connection with the origin of Memorial Day, many of them in the South where most of the war dead were buried.

Official Birthplace Declared

In 1966, Congress and President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., the “birthplace” of Memorial Day. There a ceremony on May 5, 1866, was reported to have honored local soldiers and sailors who had fought in the Civil War. Businesses closed and residents flew flags at half-mast. Supporters of Waterloo’s claim say earlier observances in other places were either informal, not community-wide or one-time events.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day. The Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities. It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971 Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

Some States Have Confederate Observances

Many Southern states also have their own days for honoring the Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it May 10, Louisiana on June 3 and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day January 19 and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day.

Gen. Logan’s order for his posts to decorate graves in 1868 “with the choicest flowers of springtime” urged: “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

The crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was approximately the same size as those that attend today’s observance, about 5,000 people. Then, as now, small American flags were placed on each grave – a tradition followed at many national cemeteries today. In recent years, the custom has grown in many families to decorate the graves of all departed loved ones.

The origins of special services to honor those who die in war can be found in antiquity. The Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of the Peloponnesian War over 24 centuries ago that could be applied today to the 1.1 million Americans who have died in the nation’s wars: “Not only are they commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not on stone but in the hearts of men.”

USS Forrestal Readies for Final Voyage

40 Years Ago Today:

A Personal Remembrance by AGCM Fred Baillie, USN, Ret.

USS Forrestal remained at Pier 12 Naval Operating Base, Norfolk, VA, until very early 20 May 1967, 3,500 family members, friends and relatives of Forrestal crewmembers arrive on board FORRESTAL this clear, sunny Saturday for a Family Day Cruise.
Friends and family members start arriving early for the exciting day. Soon the mooring lines were hauled in and Forrestal began to get underway.

After Special Sea and Anchor Detail is secured families walked around the hangar bays, looking at the various aircraft. Friends and family members were shown the mess deck area and berthing compartments of their sailors. Sailors took their guests to the small store and jewelry shop on the second deck. They walked up to the 02 level and showed them the forecastle. The size of the anchor chain links really impressed them, when he told them each link of the chain weighed 360 pounds.

Later the destroyer USS Vogelgesang (DD-862) came alongside for the highline transfer. They watched the transfer from the starboard side. Ensign John F. Elsheimer, the First Division’s junior division officer is being transferred over to, and back from the Vogelgesang because he is Forrestal’s most junior officer. Some officers have all the luck.

Later the families walked up on the flight deck before flight operations started. Air Wing SEVENTEEN treated the guests to an Air Show/Fire Power demonstration. The air wing pilots flew close by the ship, conducting a firepower demonstration dropping numerous types of ordnance for the guests to watch, plus mid-flight refueling.
The families had lunch on the forward mess deck and later he just walked them around to let them get the full feeling of what the Forrestal is all about. The sights and sounds of the aircraft landing and launching is an exciting experience. All on board had a good time.

Forrestal returned to pier 12 at later in the evening.

….and then later on…on the 20th of August Mary Kay Baillie was born… I missed the birth as I did most of my six kids…but I did see her before her two-month birthday !!!

(Editor’s Note): Just two months later, on July 29, 1967, the USS Forrestal would experience one of the worst shipboard accidents in US Naval history. Watch this space in July for a special on the USS Forrestal accident, as reported by one who was there.

When Hate Is Not Hate

Contributed by: AGCM Fred Baillie, USN, Ret.

I watched the news video of the assault preceding a carjacking in Detroit. Twenty-one times the assailant struck the helpless victim in the face with his fist. When the victim collapsed on the pavement, the assailant fled in the man’s car. Several adults stood on the sidewalk, watched the mayhem, and did nothing.

Deonte Edward Bradley, a 22-year-old black man, has been charged with the crime. The victim is Leonard Sims, a frail, 91-year-old, black WW2 veteran.
Bradley cannot be charged with a hate crime, which carries a heavier penalty. But, if Bradley were white he could be. Isn’t this silly? You see, our learned Congress, in all their wisdom, have declared such twaddle. Black on black is not hate. Well, la-di-da!
The correction for this injustice is not to add to the injustice with more definitions of hate, but to eliminate the hate crime category entirely.

South Carolina Considering Lifting Ban on Guns in Schools

The Charleston, SC, Post and Courier
Thursday, May 10, 2007

University of South Carolina professor Patrick Nolan knows exactly what he would want to do if a gun-wielding assailant burst into his classroom: He’d blow him away.

“I would have no hesitation,” said Nolan, who holds a state-issued concealed weapons permit and has taught sociology at USC for 15 years. “I would tell my students to get down, and I would stop the attack.”

South Carolina and most other states ban permit holders from bringing weapons onto school campuses and other public property. But a bill pending in the S.C. House would allow anyone with a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun onto public school and college campuses. Nolan said he believes he could better protect his students if he brought his .357-caliber Magnum to class.

“That’s why we have shootings on school campuses, because the shooters know schools are gun-free zones and nobody is going to stop them,” Nolan said.

On Wednesday, the House’s Judiciary Committee took testimony from campus public safety officials and gun-rights advocates, two groups that come down squarely on opposite sides of the issue.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, introduced the legislation in response to claims that the tragedy at Virginia Tech last month could have been avoided, or at least blunted, if more people on campus were armed. About 20 other lawmakers have signed on to Duncan’s bill.

Kathy Maness represents some 6,000 teachers as executive director of the Palmetto State Teachers Association. She said she prays that conditions in South Carolina schools never reach the point where teachers must pack heat alongside their lesson plans. “I just don’t think it’s safe to have guns in school. What if we have a student who is going off the deep end and they get that gun?”

The state’s Commission on Higher Education declined to comment on the bill; other academic and education groups have said that allowing weapons to be brought onto campuses is a bad idea.

House members adjourned debate on the bill Wednesday, and it is not scheduled to come back up before the end of the session. House Majority Leader Jim Merrill, R-Daniel Island, supports the proposal but thinks it has little chance of passage this year.

Merrill said the bill might have more appeal if it limited the gun-carrying privilege to school faculty and administrators. “This legislation might be a little extreme,” he said. “The students — that might be a little more than folks can stomach.”

Columbia College Police Chief Howard Cook said that allowing civilians to carry weapons on campus could lead to more violence, not less. Officers responding to a shooting already have enough to deal with without having to discern which shooters are legitimate. “It’s difficult for us to decide who are the good guys. If SWAT shoots the faculty member, it just goes round and round.”

Cook, president of the S.C. Campus Law Enforcement Association, said many concealed weapons permit holders lack training in high-stress environments and that their experience is limited to “shooting at paper targets in optimal conditions,” he said.

Ernest Ellis, who oversees law enforcement at USC, said a classroom could be transformed into a virtual shooting gallery if an assailant opened fire and several students reached for their own weapons. “How accurate would their shots be in that case, and would we have even more victims?”

Robert Butler, vice president of Lexington-based GrassRoots Gun Rights, also testified Wednesday. He said concealed weapons permit holders are the good guys and that the mere possibility that they could be sitting in classrooms and walking across campuses is enough to deter most would-be murderers. “If we truly loved our children, we would not create safe havens for the killers of our children,” Butler said.

Butler said law-abiding gun owners have helped stop or minimize violence in at least three school-related incidents over the years.

Nolan, who practices marksmanship in simulated “real-world” environments and teaches training courses for people applying for concealed weapons permits, said most permit holders are not casual gun owners. They practice and have accepted a responsibility.

“When you decide to carry a weapon, you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I prepared to use it?’ ”

Reach Ron Menchaca at or 937-5724.

Perry: Banning pistols isn’t the answer

Governor says licensees should be free to take them anywhere for protection

AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry said Monday that Texans who are legally licensed should be able to carry their concealed handguns anywhere, including churches, bars, courthouses and college campuses.

“I think it makes sense for Texans to be able to protect themselves from deranged individuals, whether they’re in church, or whether on a college campus or wherever they are,” he said.

“The idea that you’re going to exempt them from a particular place is nonsense to me.”

Perry commented to reporters after he and U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt had met privately with educators, mental health experts and law enforcement officials to discuss the recent shootings at Virginia Tech University. Leavitt and other Cabinet officials are traveling around the country to discuss school and community safety practices in preparation for a report to President Bush.

The governor’s remarks aren’t likely to result in widespread changes in Texas gun laws, particularly this late in a legislative session that must adjourn by May 28.

But the comments elicited sharp responses, and Perry’s stance puts him at odds with a major political ally, the Texas Association of Business, over the right of employers to continue to ban firearms from their property.

“We’re not in the Wild West anymore,” Tommie Garza of Houston, executive director of Texans for Gun Safety, said of the governor’s idea. “It doesn’t seem like the sensible thing to do.”

Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, who sponsored the concealed handgun law as a state senator in 1995, said he agreed with Perry that “we need more guns in schools in the hands of responsible people.”

But he drew the line at allowing guns in bars. “People get drunk there, and their aim is not as good,” he said.

Current law prohibits the carrying of firearms, even by handgun licensees, into bars, schools, most areas of college campuses and courthouses. Churches can ban them, and governmental bodies can prohibit licensees from carrying pistols into public meetings.

Companies also can prohibit their employees from carrying weapons onto their property. The Senate has approved a bill to allow handgun licensees to leave their weapons in their cars on company parking lots, but the TAB and many employers are trying to kill that legislation in the House.

Asked about carrying a pistol into a bar, Perry said, “I think that a person ought to be able to carry that weapon if they are legally licensed to.”

The governor responded less clearly when asked whether Texas should submit mental health information on some individuals to a national database used for background checks.

Seung-Hui Cho, the shooter who killed 32 people and himself at Virginia Tech on April 16, had purchased two handguns, despite having been declared mentally ill.

Senate Bill 1755 by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, which hasn’t yet been heard by a Senate committee, would cover people who have received court-ordered inpatient mental health services or who have been declared mentally incapacitated. But it wouldn’t apply to people like Cho, who was a mental health outpatient.

There are privacy requirements under federal law that must be considered, Perry said.

Austin Bureau reporter Peggy Fikac contributed to this story.