A Celebration of Remembrance
By Jane Silver / May 1, 2017
Memorial Day unofficially marks the beginning of the summer season. More importantly, it is a day to honor the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for our country.
Dating back to the American Civil War, the first Memorial Day was called Decoration Day and honored the memory of fallen soldiers. General John Logan, National Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 5th, 1868 as Decoration Day, a day to adorn the graves of Civil War soldiers with flowers and tributes.
In 1873, New York was the first state to officially acknowledge Memorial Day. By 1890, The Northern States began to observe and actively participate in this holiday. The Southern states refused to acknowledge the day at this time, but honored those they lost on separate days. This went on until after World War I when Memorial Day began to be about all men and women who died in any war, as opposed to just the Civil War.
There are many symbols associated with Memorial Day. The Red Poppy has been a main component since 1915 when Ms. Moina Michael was inspired by the Memorial poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae and decided to write her own:
"We cherish to, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies."
She envisioned that red poppies would be worn on Memorial Day to honor those who gave their lives defending our country. She was the first to wear one and decided to sell them to friends and coworkers. She donated the money from her poppy sales to help the U.S. Army veterans. The Buddy Poppy program continued to make and distribute Poppies in support of the servicemen in the United States Military.
Many cities and towns claim to be the founding place of Memorial Day. However, Waterloo, New York was chosen and declared as the birthplace of Memorial Day; President Lyndon B Johnson made it official in 1966.
With the passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971, Memorial Day was established as a federal holiday, in which all non-essential government offices are closed. This act played an essential role in providing a customary three-day weekend for all federal holidays.
As per the National Moment of Remembrance Resolution passed in December of 2000, all Americans should voluntarily refrain from activity for a moment of silence at 3pm local time to remember the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives for this country.
Today, Memorial Day is observed in every state on the last Monday in May. The American flag will be lowered to half-staff until noon and thousands of parades take place in cities across the land.
Memorial Day will be celebrated on Monday, May 29th. Let us not forget the bravery and selflessness of those American heroes who have lost their lives, as we celebrate life and anticipate the joy of the upcoming summer season.
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