As you are probably aware, Memorial Day started out as “Decoration Day,” a day to decorate the graves and honor the memory of soldiers who died in the Civil War. After the World Wars, it became a generalized day of remembrance for military personnel who died in war, or who died in the performance of their military duties. The name of the holiday was standardized as “Memorial Day” in 1971.
Among my direct ancestors and their siblings (that is, uncles, great uncles, etc.), I believe there are veterans of most wars fought by the United States (not counting more recent undeclared wars). I don’t imagine that is particularly unusual. There may be others, but the ones I know about are shown below. Of these only one died in war. I list each person, his dates, the state or branch of service, his relationship to me (from which the reader may be able to determine any relationship to himself or herself), and any notes about the person’s service.
- Joshua Wright (1748-1819) – Pennsylvania – fourth great grandfather
- Tidence Lane, Jr (1763-1841) – North Carolina – fourth great grandfather (via McClain)
- Isaac Lane (1760-1851) – North Carolina – fourth great grandfather’s brother (via McClain)
- John Clancy (1754-1841) – Maryland – fifth great grandfather (via McClain, Hammel, Rine, Bucy)
- Edwin Adolphus Wright (1836-1917) – Pennsylvania – great grandfather’s brother
- Robert Edgar Wright (1838-1872) – Pennsylvania – great grandfather’s brother
- James Callendar Irvine Wright (1840-1931) – Pennsylvania – great grandfather’s brother
- Alfred Lee Wright (1845-1874) – Pennsylvania or Michigan – great grandfather’s brother – said to have died of war wounds (after the war)
- William Jasper McClain (1843-1863) – Illinois – great grandmother’s brother – died at the Battle of Vicksburg
- John Edwin Wright (1874-1972) – Cavalry, Company D – grandfather
World War I:
- Raymond Boyd McClain (1888-1965) – Army – grandfather’s brother
World War II:
- Harold Bell Wright (1913-2003) – Navy (submariner) – father’s brother
- Gerrit Lee Wright (1918-2010) – Army Corps of Engineers – father’s brother
On this day of remembrance, I honor the memory of these in my family, and all who have fought to defend our country since its inception.