As a lifelong pacifist who not only refuses to condone war for any reason and to being coerced to killing people under the orders of a “superior” officer, Memorial Day is not one I care to celebrate. much less talk about. This year, however, I will make an exception.
The origins of Memorial Day are usually over-looked by most Americans, especially White Americans, as a day originated by freedmen of Charleston, South Carolina in the post Civil War era to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and who far and large were white. Those fallen soldiers mostly died not from battle wounds, but from disease and deprivation. The ones that are not so much remembered are the emancipated slaves who died by the hundreds of thousands because they had little or no shelter, food, water nor access to medical services, the basic necessities of life and the terrible price they paid for their freedom from bondage to their white masters.
The Arlington National Cemetery was founded in 1864 on what had been the Custis-Lee Plantation. At it’s center was the imposing Greek revival style building then known as the Custis-Lee Mansion and today called Arlington House, The Robert E. Lee Memorial in honor of the Confederate General who had led the Southern cause to their eventual surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, VA, on April 9, 1865 What most don’t know, the Union Army not only covered the rolling hills along the Potomac river with graves of their fallen comrades, the General’s former garden was also planted with the remains of the fallen who had died to preserve the Union.
I learned that the reason for burying soldiers in the garden so close to the mansion was to remind the General of all the men and women he was responsible to have been killed during that long bloody war which, if you count both sides, had more American casualties than any war that America has fought before and since.
As I was the one son to be born in Arlington, VA, I was given the middle name Lee which I never really liked but carried right up to my legal name change in January 2012 from David Lee Hallmark to Deanna Joy Hallmark. I kept my family name because of it’s long and somewhat colorful history which reaches back to at least the fifteen century in Britain. The American progenitor to the Hallmark family name was my three times great-grandfather, George Hallmark who was the unacknowledged illegitimate son of Mary Hallmark, which required he adopt his mother’s surname. As an adult he had come to the British colony of Virginia as a convicted petty thief to serve a seven-year sentence as a bonded servant on a nearby plantation from the one from which my middle name had ironically been derived.
You can probably understand why I decided to drop my given middle name of Lee. I changed the name instead to Joy because of the joy I now was feeling from having finally begun to live my life-long dream as the woman and girl I always believed I should have been.
So folks, that is my final word on Memorial Day!
Deanna Joy Hallmark.