Today is Memorial Day, but what does that really mean beyond the possibility of a three-day weekend? Here is what I found out…
Firstly, Memorial Day should not be confused with Veteran’s Day, which honors the service of all our men and women military veterans. Memorial Day started as “Decoration Day”, originating after the Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died – today, Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring ALL those who died while serving our country.
Did you notice an American flag this morning?
On this day of memorial, the flag will be raised to the top of the staff and then lowered to the half-staff position which is in remembrance of the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service. At noon, the flag is raised back to the top of the staff where it will remain for the rest of the day. This act symbolizes raising the memory of the dead and declaring that their sacrifice was not made in vain. Our departed service members did their duty and more, it is up to us to continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.
Did you also notice, as you passed by a cemetery today, an abundance of flowers laid on the graves?
This practice of decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers, is actually an ancient custom, one that took on greater cultural significance after the Civil War. After the government began creating national military cemeteries, an increasingly formal practice of decorating graves took shape. Caring for the landscaping around the graves is another simple way to say thank you and to pay your respects.
And if you would like to leave flowers, I would recommend poppies. The remembrance poppy has been used since 1921 to revere soldiers who have died in war. This was inspired by a poem written in 1915 after the Second Battle of Ypres in World War I. The opening lines of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” refer to the fields of poppies that grew among the soldiers’ graves in Flanders. Three years later, Moina Michael, considered the Memorial Day Poppy Founder, wore a silk poppy pinned to her coat and distributed dozens more at a War Secretaries’ conference.
I hope this gives you a new solemn respect for this day, I know it certainly did me.
“Better than honor and glory, and History’s iron pen,
Was the thought of duty done and the love of his fellow-men.”
~Richard Watson Gilder
Recommended books for adults:
–Offerings at the Wall: Artifacts from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Collection
by Thomas B. Allen
–Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars by George L. Moss
Recommended books for children:
When she is not being a responsible adult and working at McKay’s, Eliza fills her time with numerous creative pursuits including: jewelry-making, etching, and crocheting. When she’s not crafting, reading, writing or plotting to take over the world, you’ll probably find her napping with her dogs.