How will you celebrate Memorial Day? To millions of Americans, Memorial Day is simply an excuse to have a three-day weekend to celebrate the beginning of summer. To others, it is a day to remember loved ones who are now gone. To still others, it is a day to honor fallen heroes.
Known originally as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is a federal holiday. It was observed on May 30 for many years but was changed in 1971 to the last Monday in May in order to make it a three-day holiday weekend. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, who scheduled it to be observed on May 30, 1868. The date was set apart as a day for flowers to be placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers buried at
. After World War I, the day was dedicated to all
Americans who died fighting in any war. Arlington National Cemetery
I remember as a child, youth, and young adult seeing older people wearing red poppies on Memorial Day. I understood that the poppies represented something important, but I didn't understand their purpose at that time. Moina Michael wrote the following poem in 1915:
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.
Ms. Michael was credited with the idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died during war while serving our nation as well as the first person to wear one. She also sold red poppies to her associates to earn money to assist needy servicemen. Ms. Michael was honored in 1948 when the US Post Office issued a red 3-cent postage stamp bearing her picture.
Observance of Memorial Day is not the same to people now as it was traditionally. I remember that my parents and parents-in-law would drive long distances in order to put flowers on the graves of deceased loved ones. I live too far from the graves of my loved ones to visit them on Memorial Day, but I take flowers to their grave sites when I am in the area.
Mark Alexander at Patriot Post posted an article on Thursday, May 24, 2012, entitled "Memorial Day Is NOT On Sale - Millions of Patriots Have Already Paid the Full Price." He wrote: "Memorial Day provides a stark contrast between the best of our nation's Patriot sons and daughters versus the worst of our nation's civilian culture of consumption.
"Amid the sparse, reverent observances of the sacrifices made by millions of American Patriots who paid the full price for
, in keeping with
their sacred oaths, we are inundated at every turn with the commercialization
of Memorial Day by vendors who are too ignorant and/or selfish to honor this
day in accordance with its purpose.
Indeed, Memorial Day has been sold out, along with Washington's
Birthday, Independence Day, Veterans, Thanksgiving and Christmas Days. And it's no wonder, as government schools no
longer teach civics or any meaningful history, and courts have excluded God
(officially) from the public square." Liberty
There are still a few people and places that remember the reason for Memorial Day. "Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at
. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the
weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St.
Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Arlington
as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the
Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boy Scouts and Girl
Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers
buried at Jefferson Barracks
National Cemetery Fredericksburg and
on Mary's Heights (the Luminaria Program).
And in 2004, Spotsylvania National
Military Park held its first Memorial Day parade
in over 60 years. Washington
"To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning 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.'"
This site also advocates that we return Memorial Day to its traditional day of observance. When Congress passed the law to make the day just another three-day weekend in 1971, it cheapened the day.
I was pleased to read in the Anchorage Daily News, May 26, 2012, that "surviving World War II veterans will be honored as part of Memorial Day observances on Monday … at 3p.m. on the Park Strip at the Veterans Memorial, west of I Street between Ninth and 10th Avenues.
"This year the event will note the 70th anniversary of the attack on
Dutch Harbor, in which Japanese planes bombed American
facilities on Unalaska Island on June 3 and 4,
1942." The ceremony will include
recognition of other military members who have died.
I plan to be in attendance at this event to join in honoring deceased heroes. How do you plan to observe Memorial Day? I hope that you will at least pause for a moment at 3:00 p.m. to remember our fallen heroes.