This Monday is Memorial Day, and it is important for us all to remember that it is not simply a day off from work that allows us to watch a parade, have cookouts and go to the beach — it is a day set aside to honor the men and women who have died in the military, protecting and defending our country. Without their dedication, their deeds and their sacrifices, none of us would have the freedoms we enjoy today, and we can never honor them enough for giving us this gift.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was started after the Civil War when May 30 was “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890, it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I, when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. It is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May with Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363).
One Memorial Day traditional, wearing a red poppy, came about after World War I, as a response to the 1915 poem, “In Flanders Fields,” by Maj. John McCrae:
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.
We honor the deeds and memories of our fallen heroes, and offer our thanks not only to them, but to all living veterans as well. We encourage our readers to remember and honor the meaning of Memorial Day.