Memorial Day History and Events

By Frank Barron

Giving is Universal at M.E.N.D. event.

Monday, May 30, is a special day for me and all veterans. It is a time for solemn observance for the men and women who have served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May in memory of the soldiers killed in wars, but it was originally known as Decoration Day, honoring the nation’s Civil War dead, when citizens decorated the graves of those who fought on both sides of the war. It helped heal the nation after brother fought against brother on American soil.

So devastating was the Civil War, that more Americans were killed in that conflict than in any other war, including World War II.

At the end of the war, the nation slowly recovered from its wounds, and many Americans, from the North and South, would visit the cemeteries to honor those who had fallen in battle. They placed flowers on the graves, remembered and grieved.

Historians differ on the origin of what is now known as Memorial Day, but one of the earliest records shows a group of volunteers, mostly widows, in Washington, D.C., decorating the graves in 1862. The ceremony was repeated the following year.

At various historical locations throughout the nation, various groups and individuals continued to honor the fallen with services and remembrances, mostly in the spring when flowers bloomed.

On April 19, 1866, Gen. Jonathan Logan reportedly participated in Illinois’s first veteran’s memorial service at Woodlawn Cemetery, then later establishing Decoration Day. Today there is a stone on that site declaring it the first location of a Decoration Day ceremony. His General Order No. 11 designated May 30 as the day of observance, making it the first official recognition of Memorial Day.

Many communities started holding their own local services, and the idea spread throughout the country, with parades, reading of poetry and singing patriotic songs, along with decorating the graves, and finally, rifle salutes. In 1882 the name Decoration Day was officially changed to Memorial Day, to honor our military and the memory of all Americans who died in war and in service to their country.

With the theme “All Gave Some, Some Gave All,” the Canoga Park Memorial Day Parade will take place May 30 at 11 a.m., beginning at the corner of Sherman Way and Owensmouth, heading east towards Desoto Avenue, turning south towards Vanowen. The reviewing stand will be set up in front of Quimby Park where there will be a post-parade celebration with music and vendors.

Locally, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills will present its 15th annual Memorial Day Program on May 30 at 10 a.m. at the Birth of Liberty courtyard. NBC4’s Fritz Coleman, who served in the U.S. Navy, will serve as Master of Ceremonies. There will be patriotic music from the California Army National Guard’s 40th Infantry Division Band and the Scottish Pipes & Drums.

Fly your American flags proudly Monday, and always.

M.E.N.D. Enjoys “Holiday Cheer” with Universal Studios Volunteers

Of course Memorial Day weekend is a great time to get together for barbeques and family time. And thanks to the big hearted folks at Universal Studios Hollywood, underprivileged families got to enjoy a great celebration last weekend that had a “Holiday Cheer” theme. The event hosted by Universal’s “Discover a Star” philanthropic foundation, and Santa was on hand, along with Shrek, and E.B., the Easter Bunny from the Universal film Hop.

It was the 20th anniversary of the annual “Christmas in Spring” event held at M.E.N.D. (Meet Each Need with Dignity), the transitional living center on San Fernando Road. And it benefited more than 1,000 shelter residents. There were gifts for all the kids, along with games, crafts and a wonderful feast prepared by Universal’s own award-winning executive chef Eric Kopelow. USH president Larry Kerzweil and his wife Lauren were among the couple of hundred Universal employee volunteers who embodied the motto “Giving is Universal.” They served the families and appreciation was shown on all the smiles we saw. Even during these difficult economic times, it seems there is hope.