How much do you really know about Memorial Day? Some history and a letter from a WWI veteran will help you reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day.
Memorial Day – How Do Americans Genuinely Celebrate This Three Day Weekend?
The sound of brats sizzling on the grill. The bright sun warming your face. The buzz of children playing and friends laughing. This year our country celebrates Memorial Day on May 30th. All federal businesses are closed and it marks the unofficial start of summer.
But what does Memorial day really mean? Let’s take a moment to reflect on the reason behind this special day.
When Is Memorial Day?
As we searched for the Memorial Day message we wanted to share, we found that one of the most asked questions about Memorial Day is: “When is it?”
We get it. We’ve marked it on our calendars too. It’s the first big weekend of summer – a 3 day weekend.
For us, at Seagull Bay - A Lakeside Motel, it’s usually one of our first full weekends of the year. We make sure our seasonal staff is trained and ready to go. All our rooms are deep cleaned. And we anxiously anticipate the upcoming tourist season.
For you, it might bring thoughts of barbeques and picnics. Gatherings with friends and family. A day off. If you’ve decided to travel, thoughts of exciting new adventures fill your mind.
If you're coming to Bayfield, it often means it’s time to get your boat in the water. Sail or cruise on the waters of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Visit a lighthouse or stroll along the streets of our quaint little town.
But if we asked you why we celebrate Memorial Day could you tell us – with confidence? Or when did it start – would you know? This is starting to feel like the TV show, “Are you smarter than a fifth-grader?”
To be honest, we’re not sure we could. So let’s take moment to review some Memorial Day basics.
Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?
Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, was first established following the end of the Civil War. Towns and communities were looking for a way to honor those lost during the war.
The first official Decoration Day ceremony took place on May 5, 1866, in Waterloo, New York. General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington Cemetary. As part of the ceremony, 5,000 participants decorated 20,000 Civil War graves with flowers.
As the US became involved in more wars and conflicts, Decoration Day evolved into Memorial Day. During WWI it was also decided that all fallen soldiers should be remembered on Memorial Day – a respect that they rightfully deserve.
In 1968, congress designated the last Monday in May as the day that we honor those lost in battle.
Less than 1% of the US population now serves in our military, but we all benefit from the sacrifice those men and women have made. The least we can do to give back is spend a day honoring their service.
A Letter to Remind Us of Memorial Day
With permission from his family, we would like to share a letter from a Bayfield native and WWI veteran. This letter was posted in the Bayfield Progress – a local newspaper at the time. The letter is titled, “Dear Mother and Father” and was written on August 14, 1918 by Louie Vanderventer.
“Dear Mother and Father,
With the greatest of love I am penning these few lines to let you know that I'm still alive and
enjoying fairly good health at the present time, and I hope these few lines will find you all the same.
I was in the hospital again but don't worry. I think I will be out again. Thank God that I am
still alive. I am sure He did protect me for I did get some very close calls at the front.
I was brought here from the front suffering from a shellshock, but I am getting along nicely now but I am afraid that I will never be the man I used to be, but don't worry, mother and father, all is well.
How are all my friends there? Give them my best regards and tell them that I always think of
them and also tell them to write to me for I have not received any letters from them for a long time and I am very anxious to hear from all.
Do you ever hear from Grant Gee? I don't know what the matter with him is. I never hear from him – not a word since we left the states. I hope someday I will meet him.
I hope this struggle will soon be over so we can all return home and I am sure it will be a
I was at the front seven days, and I am sure lucky to be alive today. Sherman said, "War is hell," and I believe him. The sites on the battlefield are something horrible, and never will I forget what I have seen while I was in the fighting line at the front. Believe me, mother, I expected that I would fall any minute, but it is God's will that I am alive today. The big shells dropped around me pretty close at times and it made me think of home.
We were lying in a little trench one night that was under heavy shell fire. I was lying between
two of my soldier friends and about 3:30 in the morning three shells burst right in front of us. It wasn't any more than 15 feet away; the two boys that were lying with me were wounded, and I was the lucky one.
Well, I think I will close for this time hoping this letter finds you all in good health, also the
friends around you. I will now close for this time.
With love and best wishes; your loving son – Louie Vanderventer, United States Base Hospital number 19, American Exp. Forces via New York”
Take a Moment to Remember the Fallen on Memorial Day
We know many of you will read this post, give a quick thought to Memorial Day, and then enjoy your weekend. Us too. We are busy taking care of guests and ensuring that their needs are met.
But hopefully, this reminder will prompt us all to reflect a little longer, encourage us to find a Memorial Day service, visit a memorial, or buy some poppies.
What we hope is that you pause and say thanks for the many sacrifices made. Have gratitude for the safety and freedoms that we are offered as Americans. And if you or a loved one has served our country, from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your service and sacrifice.
The next time you’re looking for a place to enjoy this beautiful country of ours. We will be here to serve you, to greet you, and to take care of you at Seagull Bay Lakeside Motel.
Mollie, Issac, Axel, Ridge, and Banks