Memorial Day brings thoughts of parades, flag waving, red poppies, picnics, barbecues, a day of no school or work, and what many of us think of as the beginning of summer – forget that the calendar shows it as June 21st, most of us see summer beginning on Memorial Day and ending on Labor Day.
In truth, Memorial Day is the day we should primarily remember those of our American military service men and women who died fighting for our country. Every Memorial Day an observation of that is held at Arlington National Cemetery. There is also a presidential armed forces wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The holiday, originally known as Decoration Day, was first proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan, who headed the “Grand Army of the Republic,” which was essentially a lobbying group for Union Civil War Veterans, and was first observed on May 30th of that year with flowers placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all the northern states. The south refused to acknowledge it until after World War I when the holiday changed to honor any American who died fighting in any war.
Mona Michael was inspired to write her poem, “We Shall Keep the Faith” by the poem “In Flanders Field,” by John McCrae. She 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 dies.” She was the one who came up with the idea to wear red poppies in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. In 1922, the Veterans of Foreign Wars became the first organization to sell red poppies that are made by disabled veterans.
I remember only one Memorial Day Parade I marched in, but I can’t remember if it was with my Cub Scout Den or my Girl Scout Troop. Neither, my son or daughter remembers marching in a Memorial Day Parade, but it’s probably because they marched in other parades with a band.
|My son's grave planted this week.|
I seldom go to Memorial Day Parades, but I do buy a poppy if I see the Veterans selling them at the grocery store, and I never miss planting the graves of my loved ones. What once was a tradition of only placing flowers on the graves of veterans has become a tradition for many to also plant the graves of loved ones and not just Veterans. In the township cemetery with graves of my family going back over a hundred years, I have no family veterans so I plant only the four closest to me; my parents, my son, and my granddaughter.
|The Grave of my 6 year old granddaughter, Megan.|
A few days before Memorial Day, I go to Champion Township Cemetery with flats of flowers, potting soil, bark mulch, spade, trowel, kneeling pad, buckets for the weeds and grass I dig out and a watering can. I spend almost two hours preparing and planting the graves. It's one of the few things I can do now to honor my son, granddaughter and parents..
Do you celebrate Memorial Day in any way?
Do you ever put flowers, real or artificial on a grave?