For many American’s Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial kick-off to summer and typically includes a 3-day weekend spending time with friends and family around the BBQ. When surrounded by delicious burgers, brats and potato salad, it’s easy to forget that Memorial Day is a day honor and reverence. Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Take pause to remember the meaning of the day and be the smartest person at your holiday cookout with these facts about Memorial Day.
- Over two dozen cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day.
- Memorial Day was born out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.
- The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South honored their dead on separate days until after World War I when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.
- It is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May with Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 – 363). This helped ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays, though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19th in Texas; April 26th in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10th in South Carolina; and June 3rd (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.
- Inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” in 1915 Moina Michael wrote:
“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 with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies.
- The “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed on December 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for 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.”
- Since the late 1950s on the Thursday before Memorial Day, 1,200 soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye’s Heights (the Luminaria Program).
There’s nothing like a cookout to symbolize the freedom that we have here in the United States, but take a moment on Monday to remember those that made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could enjoy our freedom…including that amazing potato salad. And, don’t forget off the job best safety practices if you are working around the house, firing up the grill, or using fireworks.
We wish you a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!
(Source: Memorial Day – www.usmemorialday.org )