Memorial Day is a day meant to honor the brave men and women who have given their lives in service of our country, and it holds a special meaning for me. My great grandfather was the Captain of the USS Arizona and died in Pearl Harbor.
History of Memorial Day: According to memorialday.org, Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day. While there are dozens of cities that claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, the first official holiday took place in 1868, on May 30th at Arlington Cemetery, where flowers were laid on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers. By 1890, Memorial Day was recognized by all of the Northern States, while the South refused to recognize the day officially until after World War 1. Although, the South did honor their dead on different days, which varied from state to state.
In 1971, Congress turned Memorial Day into a three day weekend. Instead of the traditional May 30th observance, Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday in May. Many veterans feel that this has distracted the general public from the true meaning behind Memorial Day. For many Americans, Memorial Day weekend turns into a vacation time, reason for a party, or a much needed break from work.
The Poppy: You will notice that many Americans wear a red poppy on Memorial Day, or you will see veterans who collect money outside of stores, handing out a small red poppy made of paper to thank you for donations. There is a history behind this symbolic gesture. A woman named Moina Michael wrote the following poem in 1915, after which, she contrived the idea to wear a red poppy in honor of the dead. It’s really very touching.
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
The National Moment of Remembrance: Sadly, many Americans have no idea what Memorial Day really stands for. In past years, parades were held across the country, the dead were honored, and children were educated as to the meaning of this day. Today, many Americans believe that Memorial Day is meant to honor anyone who has passed away, rather than those who have died in service.
To better educate the public and keep the tradition of Memorial Day alive, The National Moment of Remembrance was passed in December of 2000, according to memorialday.org. This simple act, requests that all Americans stop what they are doing at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day and have a moment of silence to honor those who have fallen in battle. Each American or family is asked to observe Memorial Day in their own way.
This Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember those who have given their lives so that you and I remain free and pay tribute to those who have fallen to ensure the freedom of countless others.