Memorial Day History
On May 29, 2023, the United States of America will observe Memorial Day. It is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service to our country.
According to the US Memorial Day history page on the Memorial Day site, Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day. Memorial Day was established after the Civil War. Its purpose was to honor those who died during the War Between the States.
On May 5,1868, in his General Order No. 11, Army General John Logan, officially proclaimed:
“The 30th of May, 1868, is 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, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”
Because the day wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle, the General called it, Decoration Day.
On the first Decoration Day, 5,000 participants decorated the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington Cemetery.
States Recognize the Day Differently
New York was the first state to officially recognize the holiday in 1873. It was recognized by all northern states by 1890.
However, the South refused to acknowledge the day. Choosing instead, to honor their dead on separate days.
This practice continued until after World War I. At that time, the holiday changed from honoring only those who died fighting in the Civil War, to honoring all Americans who died fighting in any war.
With the Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971, Memorial Day is now observed on the last Monday in May by almost every state.
History of Red Poppies on Memorial Day
In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” by John McCrae, Moina Michael replied with her own poem:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers. The money she earned from the sales went to benefit servicemen in need.
Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922, the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later, their “Buddy” Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.
In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms. Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement, by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.
National Moment of Remembrance
In December 28, 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance resolution passed. At 3 p.m. local time, the Moment of Remembrance resolution asked 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.”
Last year my brother observed a Moment of Remembrance by playing taps at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day from his front porch.
Is a Moment of Remembrance on Memorial Day something you’ve observed?
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