What is Memorial Day?
Memorial Day is an American holiday dedicated to honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. It became an official federal holiday in 1971 and is observed on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day has a history dating back to the Civil War and Decoration Day, a day initially set aside to honor those who died during the Civil War.
While honoring and remembering veterans is always a good thing, Memorial Day is a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect their country. You probably won’t offend any veterans by wishing them a happy Memorial Day, but we should remember that this is not the purpose of this holiday.
This year, Memorial Day occurs on Monday, May 25.
Many people take weekend trips, go camping, throw parties, or cookouts on Memorial Day weekend. For many, it unofficially marks the beginning of summer. And that is fine. I hope these people will also take a few minutes to observe and remember the reason behind their long weekend.
Each year on Memorial Day, a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time. Maybe you could take a quiet break in your festivities to observe this solemn moment?
Cities, towns, and homes throughout the United States hold celebration activities, fly the American flag, or hold Memorial Day parades. These parades often include uniformed military personnel and/or members of veterans’ organizations. The largest parades take place in cities such as Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.
Many Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. I like to do this and have helped a few boy scout troops place American flags at grave markers over the years. And, some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blowJohn McCrae
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.