MEMORIAL DAY –
AN OPPORTUNITY TO HONOR THOSE WHO DIED IN THE
I have always loved holidays and I have the decorations for each one to prove it. Many of the holidays are joyous and a cause for celebration, ie. Christmas and Easter. Some holidays remember more solemn events. Memorial Day is one of those. It is an opportunity to honor those who died while serving in our armed forces. We would not have our freedoms if we did not have people who were courageous enough to fight for our country. For example, if it weren’t for the brave folks in the War of Independence we would not be the United States of America. I am grateful for them. I love this country and am grateful to live here.
Do you know how this national holiday came to be? Consider this, if you would. The Civil War claimed more lives than any war in the history of the United States. Thousands upon thousands gave their lives for their beliefs in how our country should be. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought over July 1st to July 3rd. The death toll for three days of battle was 51,112. I can’t even begin to imagine that. Can you? Because of the number of the dead, the country’s first national cemeteries were established.
When this day of remembrance began in 1868 the day was called Decoration Day. The tradition of laying flowers on the graves of the war dead was started by an organization of Union Army veterans. They called themselves the Grand Army of the Republic. The name Decoration Day was chosen as this was a day to decorate the graves. In our day you will not only find flowers, but American flags posted at each gravesite, as well.
There are also parades held and picnics. Flags flying and fireworks at night, too. And something I didn’t realize, since I am not a race car fan, is that the Indianapolis 500 is held the Sunday before Memorial Day and has run since 1911. (I wonder how fast the race cars were in 1911? But that is another story.) You might see some of the grave sites decorated with poppy flowers. I didn’t know this fact, but after WW1 when so many soldiers were buried in Flanders Field in Europe, a Canadian doctor penned a poem entitled “In Flanders Field.” The poppy is mentioned in the opening lines. Why? Because poppies sprang up everywhere around the gravesites in Flanders. The poppy is now the symbol of remembrance for those who died in war.
I had always wondered why my father who is a WW11 veteran annually bought poppies at the American Legion at this time of year. He had a placard for one of my brothers with Chris’s name on it in the center, surrounded by red poppies and was hung in the legion hall during this time. He also had one hanging in his home in remembrance of my brother. Now I know.
The first time Memorial Day was used in place of the former name, Decoration Day, was in 1882. It did not become an official federal holiday until enacted into law in 1967. Traditionally, the date was always the 30th of May, however it was changed to the 4th Monday in May in 1971, again by federal law.
Memorial Day has been identified as the start of summer vacation and Labor Day has been considered to be the last day of summer. There are many who feel that since the Memorial Day holiday is now part of a three day weekend the significance of this special day has been undermined. Let us not allow this holiday to be one solely of boating and picnicking, but a day to think of those who have died to maintain our freedoms.
Have a safe and blessed Memorial Day.
Blog you later.