Memorial Day is not Veteran’s Day.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America.
But now, too many people “celebrate” the day without more than a casual thought to the purpose and meaning of the day. How do we honor the 1.8 million that gave their life for America since 1775? How do we thank them for their sacrifice? Memorial Day should be one day to remember.
Memorial Day was born out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.
On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.
Red poppies have also been a way to celebrate and remember Memorial Day. Moina Michael wrote a poem in 1915 about the symbolism of the poppy. She was also the first to start wearing poppies on Memorial day.
Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922, the Veterans of Foreign Wars became the first organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their “Buddy” Poppy program started selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red three cent postage stamp with her picture on it.
To celebrate Memorial Day this year try taking a few minutes to think about the importance of the day or by participating in the “National Moment of Remembrance.”
You can do this by, voluntarily and informally observing in your own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever you are doing for a moment of silence, at 3 p.m. local time.