​ Memorial Day has gotten all mixed up with Veteran's Day. Some make a real effort to separate out those who died in combat, from those who served and survived.
After the terrible abuse we Vietnam Vets received, I'm still amazed at this re-found heart-felt recognition given to either category of warriors.


Things were so bad that a few years after I got home from VN, one Memorial Day was observed on a major Atlanta radio station by the presenting of a marathon 3 hour national radio program titled "Streets on Fire" honoring the war protesters!
I was listening to the radio while deep in the woods, at a secret creek bank location digging for arrowheads, when this abomination came over the air. I was so angered, I feared I'd die of a stroke, my body later to be found by deer hunters in the fall!

Contrast that with the Cherokee custom at all powwows, of giving the position of honor in the friendship dance to VETERANS of all wars, of all nations. They are so honored because it was they, who in Cherokee thinking, stood between the arrows and the defenseless. I remembered how emotional I became when I was called out in such a manner.


So whether you attend a solemn ceremony on Memorial Day, or simply enjoy a day off here in the land of the free, just know that those soldiers who died would appreciate even the slightest remembrance, but I never knew a soldier would not also want us all, to live long, live well, and live happily in their stead.
Meanwhile, here is the story of how the forgiving graciousness of a Southern family, was instrumental in establishing a very large part of Memorial Day traditions.


MARY'S ROSE GARDEN
YOU meant it for EVIL, but GOD meant it for GOOD" Gen.50:17-21


Montgomery Meigs hated Mary's husband, Robert E. Lee, because of his political views. After finding it very frustrating to not be able to get at him, Meigs decided to punish Mary instead. He devised a sinister plan, and was quoted as having said, " She will NEVER be able to look out the window at her rose garden again."
Mary's father, Parke, had purchased a beautiful tract of land in Virginia in 1802, then he then spent 16 years planning and building a home dedicated to the memory of his step grand-father, George Washington, who he had truly adored as a child. Parke filled his new home with many of the military accouterments from his step grand-father's war service, along with many of his personal items.


When Parke died, his land and home passed down to his only child, Mary. She continued to collect more items relating to her great-grand-father, and delighted in sharing this collection with her many visitors.


Mary's guests were treated to a meal on her ancestor's china, followed by a tour of all the artifacts, including the actual camp furniture and tent he had slept in during the war.


Meigs decided that all of these celebrations must come to an end.
In 1862 he was able to implement his plan. As the war had heated up in June 1862, Congress passed a law that empowered commissioners to assess and collect taxes on real estate in "insurrectionary districts." The statute was meant not only to raise revenue for the war, but also to punish “turncoats” like Lee. If the taxes were not paid in person, commissioners were authorized to sell the land.
Authorities levied a tax of $92.07 on the Lees' estate that year. Mary Lee, stuck in Richmond because of the fighting and her deteriorating health, asked her cousin to pay the bill. But when he presented himself before the commissioners, they said they would accept money only from Mary Lee herself. Declaring the property in default, they put it up for sale.


The auction took place on January 11, 1864. The sole bid came from the federal government, which offered $26,800, well under the estate's assessed value of $34,100. According to the certificate of sale, Arlington's new owner intended to reserve the property "for Government use, for war, military, charitable and educational purposes."


Meigs was then able to proceed with what can only be described as the "ghoulish" part of his scheme. As one historian said, "The ink wasn't even dry on the auction papers, before bodies began being buried in Mary's rose garden."


Cemetery space was badly needed because of the war, and soon there were literally 1000's of bodies buried right up next to Mary's house.
Historians today credit Mary as a true "heroine", as the person who saved one of our country's most famous collections, the personal effects of her great-grand-father, George Washington.


After Mary's death, her oldest son, Custis, sued the US government. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed that Mary's property had been illegally seized. Mary's son then sold the property back to the U.S. Government at its' fair market value.
Mary's son, George Washington Custis "Lee", then joined with Robert Todd Lincoln, the son of the late President, at an official signing ceremony creating our most famous National Cemetery. It was named "Arlington" in honor of Mary's ancient family homestead in the tidewater area of Virginia. Through the forgiving spirit and Southern graciousness of the Lee family, Meigs' evil had been converted into something sacred.

 Thomas Avery White

Memorial Day and Arlington

Thomas Avery White
Thomas Avery White
Click here to learn about Avery and read more of his articles

E-mail Avery at:
vetsvoiceusa@gmail.com

Kazmierczak