While most enjoy the day off filled with barbecues, few understand the true meaning behind Memorial Day. Originally called Decoration Day, Memorial Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. As Americans, it is essential for us to remember the roots of this holiday to truly appreciate the celebrations.
As an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. This originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.
So enjoy your day of from school and work, and try one of the following to acknowledge the day!
1. Attend a Memorial Day Service
Memorial Day services are a great way to remember the day. These events take little time out of your day and bring
you and the community together. Most include laying of the wreaths, prayer, and guest speakers! Check with your local Veterans Association to find a local ceremony in your area!
2. Wear Red Poppies
The wearing of poppies in honor of America's fallen soldiers is traditionally done on Memorial Day. The practice of wearing of poppies takes its origin from the poem In Flanders Fields, written in 1915 by John McCrae. The poem reads:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
3. Visit cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes
Many Veteran's Associations or affiliated groups will spend the day putting a flag on the graves of all those that have served. This tradition, known as "Flags in," has been conducted annually since The Old Guard was designated as the Army's official ceremonial unit in 1948. Fun Fact: approximately 14,000 flags are placed at the Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.
4. Participate in the “National Moment of Remembrance”
To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed in December 2000. It asks that at 3 p.m. local time all Americans “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.”
5. Be Thankful to be an American
The most important part of the day lies in the title: "Memorial." It is essential we give memory to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to give us the lives we live today!