Memorial Day is not all about barbecues and a long beach weekend. Though it has morphed into the unofficial start of summer, Memorial Day is really about honoring the men and women who died while serving in the United States military. Beginning with the Civil War, more than 1,200,000 soldiers have died during wartime. We owe it to their memory to take some time out of our day next Monday to remember their sacrifices. As the famous quote says, “all gave some and some gave all.”
In these divisive times with our unprecedented fractured populace, we need to remember what we have in common and not what drives us apart. For all the ideological differences that exist, we must never forget the freedoms we have or the lives that have been lost in pursuit of these freedoms. Memorial Day was first observed after the Civil War as a response to the unprecedented carnage of the Civil War with over 620,000 casualties on both sides. It was originally known as Decoration Day when flowers, wreaths and flags were placed on the graves of soldiers. It has become an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May since 1971. Memorial Day is a federal holiday when all non-essential government offices are closed. In 2000, Congress established a National Moment of Remembrance where Americans pause for one minute at 3:00 PM in an act of national unity.
Memorial Day Facts:
1. More than 36 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home on Memorial Day
2. It is a tradition to fly the American flag at half-mast from dawn until noon and then at full height for the rest of the day
3. Waterloo, New York is considered the birthplace of Memorial Day since it began its annual community service in 1866.
4. The tradition of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day originated from John McCrae’s 1915 poem In Flanders Fields.
5. In 1868, President Ulysses S. Grant presided over the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery (which was Robert E. Lee’s plantation prior to 1864)
Happy Memorial Day!