Memorial Day, the last Monday in May, is a national holiday to honor those who died during military service to our country. It is a day to acknowledge those who died to preserve this nation’s liberties and freedoms. These facts honor their sacrifice in war.
The Birthplace of Memorial Day
Waterloo, New York, was the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Waterloo first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866. Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday in 1971.
The national holiday of Memorial Day was first celebrated on May 30, 1868 as Decoration Day. This was three years after the bloody Civil War in which an estimated 620,000 soldiers, Union and Confederate, died. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared May 30 as the date because flowers would be in bloom at that time of the year and people could decorate graves of the soldiers. The Confederate states did not celebrate Decoration Day because there was the sentiment that the day only honored Union soldiers. This changed to wider observation in the South after the Great War (World War I) because there were causalities from all the states.
Memorial Day and Red Poppies
Red poppies (Papaver rhoeas) are a symbol of Memorial Day. Moina Michael, inspired by the poem, “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian Army doctor John McCrae, sold artificial red poppies to raise money for disabled veterans. She was successful in her venture, raising more than $200 million. The American Legion, in honor of her service, adopted the flower as their symbol.
National Moment of Remembrance Resolution
The National Moment of Remembrance Resolution was national legislation passed in 2000 that asks Americans to observe voluntarily a moment of silence at 3 pm on Memorial Day. Americans can also listen to “Taps” as a way of honoring war dead.
Ways to Observe Memorial Day
Observing Memorial Day is a way to honor those who died serving the United States during war. The flag should be at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff. Wearing a red poppy, visiting a military cemetery to place flags or flowers on the graves of veterans, or attending a Memorial Day parade are ways to honor those who died for American liberty and freedom. Pausing at 3 pm or listening to “Taps” are other ways to observe the day. A meaningful tribute to those who gave their lives is to donate to an organization that helps veterans.