Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Is More Than A Three Day Weekend

Memorial Day, which was first called Decoration Day, is a day to remember those that have gave their lives in the service of our nation. There are many tales as to how it actually began. Memorial Day was officially recognized on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. But, it is not important who was the first to observe the day, what is important is that Memorial Day was recognized.

President Lyndon Johnson officially declared that Waterloo N.Y. was the birthplace of Memorial in May 1966. However the origins have be debated by many people. Most likely it had many individual beginnings; each state and town had their own celebrations where people would gather to honor those that were killed while serving out nation.
General John A. Logan
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, [LC-B8172- 6403 DLC (b&w film neg.)]
In 1915, in Monica Michael was inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields,"  and wrote her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

Monica came up with the idea for people to wear red poppies on Memorial Day to honor those who died serving the nation. In 1922, right before Memorial Day, the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Within two years the VFW’s 
"Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.
Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry positioned American flags at each of the over 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They also guard the cemetery 24 hours a day during Memorial Day weekend to guarantee that each flag remains in place.

Sadly the time-honored ritual of Memorial Day has faded over the years. Many now consider it a three day weekend that marks the beginning of summer and have forgotten the significance of Memorial Day. To remind the public of the true importance of Memorial Day, the "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans "To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps."

For those that have lost a loved one that was serving our county, putting aside one day to observe and honor their sacrifice is a small gesture of gratitude. Sure it is fun to go away with your friends and family and enjoy a long weekend. But remember it was those that fought to protect our freedoms that made it possible for the rest of us to live without fear. Take a minute and buy a few gift cards, make some cookies or be original. But stop by any cemetery on Memorial Day and you will find parents, wives, husbands, siblings, children and friends spending the day visiting the grave of a person that gave their life on your behalf. Go up to them and say thank you as you hand them your gift. It will bring you more joy than anything else you did over those three days off work. More important, it will show the loved ones that were left behind that you are appreciate their sacrifice. 

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