The Memory Shall Be Ours
A Memorial Day column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:
The birth of Memorial Day is much like the birth of America. It is a story of people from different backgrounds uniting as Americans under one flag.
Following the Civil War, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed that “the 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country.” General Logan asked that the people cherish the “memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foe.”
On that first Decoration Day, as it was initially called, mourners decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. Both sides in the Civil War had answered when their country called and, by honoring them in death, America began to heal the wounds of the war.
Memorial Day, as it is known today, is a time to pause and remember those who died in defense of our country and for the preservation of freedom. I am grateful to those who have answered our nation’s call, and have given their lives. As governor, on behalf of all South Dakotans, I also thank those families who have supported their armed service family members, and who have lost one of their own. We commit to always remember the patriotism and self-sacrifice that their fallen soldier carried into the battlefield. As General Logan said so many years ago, “If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.”
As South Dakotans, let us vigilantly join our families who guard this solemn trust. Let us never forget these witnesses and let us continue to defend and love this nation. In the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.
Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours