The significance of Memorial Day

Published 7:01 am Sunday, May 29, 2016

The Memorial Day holiday has different meaning for everyone, but I hope you are enjoying your weekend while remembering the true significance of the holiday.

The official history dates back to the years following the Civil War when it was originally known as Decoration Day. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.

According to “On the first Decoration Day [May 30, 1868], General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday.

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Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.”

George Hormel’s family likely embraced the tradition of honoring those who served because two of George’s uncles, on his mother’s side, served the Union during the Civil War. Herman and Henry Decker enlisted in Boston, Massachusetts in January 1864. Jacob Decker, tried at the age of 13, to enlist as a drummer boy, but his mother prevented him from doing so.

Sadly Henry Decker was killed in a train wreck while on his way home on Oct. 31, 1864. Herman Decker also met with struggles during his service. He was taken prisoner by the Confederates at Spotsylvania, Virginia on May 12, 1864 and suffered many months of cruel hardship in Andersonville Prison. He was paroled in December 1864 at Charleston, South Carolina, and discharged on June 30, 1865.

W.H. Hormel, George’s brother, recorded in his manuscript One Generation Under the American Flag that Herman “was so emaciated that grandfather (Ludwig Decker) did not recognize him as his son who went to the war. Mother (Susanna Decker Hormel) often used her opportunity to impress the lessons of this cruel war upon us, in order that we might never forget the awful price of suffering and bloodshed which American liberty had cost.”

As easy as it is to enjoy our American freedoms, it is also easy to forget the true reason for celebrating Memorial Day. Other Hormels have served our country through military service: Ben F. Hormel, Jay Decker, Jay C. Hormel, and Geordie, Tom, and James Hormel.  The HHH remembers them during this honoring weekend as well.

 History Happy Hour: Antiques Evaluations by Mark F. Moran

5:30 p.m. social, 6 p.m. presentation, June 13

Guests can bring one item for Mr. Moran to evaluate. Some exclusions do apply. Must pre-register by calling the HHH 507-433-4243. Free to members of the HHH, The Mower County Historical Society, or the Friends of the Library.  $5 for non-members. Light refreshments included. Cash bar available.