“Many Americans have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At cemeteries across the country, the graves of the fallen are sadly ignored, and worse, neglected.” ~ Col. Allen West
In my weekly blog I normally do what I can to write something that is both work related and inspiring. This week is not necessarily work related, but I do hope it may inspire a few readers. Next Monday is Memorial Day; a day that all Americans should hold sacred, but sadly has become at best, a misunderstood Holiday and at worst the official start of summer vacation, barbecue cookouts and summer mattress sales across the nation.
Many people confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day, a day to honor all who have served their country. Memorial Day is about much more than service, it is about sacrifice. Memorial Day is the official day of remembrance of all who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives so that those of us remaining may enjoy freedom. It is not about honoring veterans. That’s what Veteran’s Day is for. Memorial Day is about honoring those who gave their lives in service to their country. Those who died on battlefields defending freedom.
Although its exact origin is unknown, Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic and was officially observed on May 30, 1868. Flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. After World War I, all states officially recognized the Holiday.
One of the traditions observed on Memorial Day is the wearing of a red poppy. This tradition was derived from what is the most famous poem of World War I, Flander’s Fields, written in 1915 by John McCrae. The poem begins; “On Flander’s fields the poppies blow, between the crosses row to row…” Over the years, many civic minded organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America have taken up the tradition of placing an American flag at the headstone of fallen veterans, Each year soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division place flags on each of the more than a quarter of a million military gravestones at Arlington, but at far too many cemeteries across the country, these graves go unattended and forgotten.
Memorial Day is about reflecting back on the price of the freedom we enjoy. It is about remembering our forefathers who fought and died for American independence. It is about remembering those who fought for the cause they believed in, although on different sides during the Civil War. It is about remembering the men of a young nation that made its mark on the world when it helped save Europe as it sacrificed its sons at places with long forgotten names like Amiens and Mont Blanc. It is about remembering those who died a torturous death in the bowels of a ship on an ocean floor in the Pacific and who turned the sea red with their blood at Normandy and who faced insurmountable odds at Bastogne. It is about remembering those who defended South Korea from communist takeover and the 58,000 plus of my own generation of friends and brothers who sacrificed their lives in the mountains, jungles and deltas of Viet Nam. Sadly today, the list of remembered soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines grows as young men, and now young women, defend us against the Islamic extremists who seek our destruction.
I hope everyone will take a little time this Memorial Day to remember the heavy cost that has been paid by so many, for our freedom. Never take that freedom for granted. It came at a heavy cost. Remember the lives left unlived and pray for their souls. They died for yours.
- What Is Memorial Day? (praiserichmond.com)
- Memorial Day Challenge (giftstogo.wordpress.com)
- On Memorial Day … (americanslivingfree.com)
- This Memorial Day, think of veterans who sacrificed for our freedom (syracuse.com)