Friday, May 25, 2012

A Brief History of Memorial Day

We all know that Memorial Day is one of those much appreciated holidays that guarantee us a long weekend the week of May.  It comes at a perfect time when the weather is just starting to really get nice all around the country.  But, do you know why we get that day off?

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day.  It was actually first celebrated on May 30th, 1868.  General James Garfield made a memorable speech at Arlington National Cemetery honoring both the Union and Confederate soldiers who gave their lives during the Civil War.  Following his speech, nearly 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves the 20,000 fallen soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery.  The holiday was not officially immediately recognized by all of the states, as the Southern states refused to honor their dead on the same day as the Northern States.  That changed after World War I when the day changed from honoring those who died in the Civil War to those who died in any war.

Over time, many people have forgotten the reason behind Memorial Day.  It is a day to honor those who sacrificed their life to uphold the freedoms of their country.  In an effort to remind (and re-educate) Americans of the meaning, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act in 2000.  It asks that at 3pm (local time) all Americans "To 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."

We hope you all have a safe and enjoyable long holiday weekend, but we also hope you take a moment to remember that it is to remember those who gave their life to protect your country.

A little Memorial Day trivia...
Do you know why they sell the little red flowers on the side of the road during Memorial weekend?
The selling of poppies during Memorial Day by members of the VFW was actually inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields (below).  Funds raised through the selling of these flowers is used to help maintain and fund state and national veteran's rehabilitation programs.  It also helps to support the VFW National Home, which supports the orphans and widows of our nation's veterans.

In Flanders Fields - Lt. Col. 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 cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields were valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
that blood of heroes never dies.

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