May 25, the last Monday in May, is Memorial Day, and Union will honor the holiday with a ceremony in front of the flagpole next to the rugby pitch at 1 p.m., during which Union’s Reserve Officer Training Corps students will present the nation’s colors.
May 25 was only declared to be Memorial Day in 1967. However, towns and cities all over the United States held versions of Memorial Day, in which they decorated soldiers’ graves and lowered flags to half-mast, as far back as 1865.
Distinct from Veterans Day, which celebrates the living veterans of the United States’ military, Memorial Day gives thanks to those who have died in the line of duty.
Union has long upheld this tradition of honoring the United States’ deceased military.
However, students and the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life have worked hard this year to revamp the previous Memorial Day ceremonies.
In the past, Memorial Day services have featured the recitation of a Christian prayer.
This year, however, Campus Protestant Minister and Director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life Victoria Brooks will offer a non-denominational “inclusive prayer” to incorporate many religious viewpoints.
Joni-Rae Partridge ’17, one of the organizers for Union’s Memorial Day celebration, stated, “We’re really working hard to make sure that everyone feels welcome, that everyone can participate.”
Brooks has also invited Union’s ROTC students for a “presentation of the colors.”
In contrast to Union’s past Memorial Day observances, Brooks noted that “this is the first in recent history involving students from Union College preparing for military service.”
The inclusion of ROTC students marks an important link between modern-day service members and the deceased veterans, all honored on Memorial Day.
In terms of the ROTC students on campus, Partridge described them as a seemingly “separate group” with little recognition. She hopes that their involvement in the Memorial Day ceremony will allow them to “show off their training.”
Before Memorial Day, Partridge aims to raise awareness for the celebration by giving out American flag pins in Reamer Center.
During the ceremony, Associate Professor of Music, Director of Africana Studies and Director of Jazz Ensemble Timothy Olsen will play “Taps,” a melody originally composed by 1849 Union graduate Brig. Gen. Daniel A. Butterfield.
Brooks will then offer a non-denominational prayer “for the memories of those who have died in service to this country.”
Partridge hopes that this will become a yearly celebration, with the ultimate end of promoting “a little bit more (American) pride” at Union.