Now, as an adult, the holiday has a more somber quality. I remember those who served our country, those who are in dangerous situations currently, and those who have or are suffering.
In other words, I think of our military.
Here’s a selection of factoids I hope you’ll find interesting:
1. Memorial Day may have originated as Decoration Day, which initially took place May 30, 1868 -- just a few years after the Civil War -- at Arlington National Cemetery.
2. General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic wanted such a day to remember the almost 620,000 soldiers who lost their lives in the Civil War.
3. New York was the first state to officially recognize Memorial Day -- in 1873.
4. In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo, N.Y., as Memorial Day’s official birthplace.
5. In 1971 Congress made Memorial Day a national holiday. Congress also placed it on the last Monday in May.
6. Placing flags on soldiers’ graves is a cherished tradition of Memorial Day.
7. Presidents and other people of importance place a wreath of flowers on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
8. At 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, many Americans observe a National Moment of Remembrance. They stand in silent reflection or listen to Taps, the bugle tribute.
9. I remember learning these words to the “Taps” song. Perhaps these aren’t THE official words, but they always come to mind when I hear Taps.
Day is done, gone the sun, from the hills, from the lake, from the skies. All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
10. Another longstanding tradition of Memorial Day is visiting the cemetery to place flowers on graves.
11. Sometimes veterans sell red poppies and people wear those artificial flowers in remembrance of our military patriots.
12. Researching Memorial Day, I discovered that the notion of red poppies comes from a poem written by Moina Michael:
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
13. Moina Michael also came up with the idea of selling poppies to help soldiers in need. In 1922 the Veterans of Foreign Wars began selling poppies and that’s when it began coming to the attention of a majority of Americans.
A footnote: Yes, patriotism is a key component of Memorial Day. At the same time, it announces that summer is just around the corner. Summer means swimming lessons, bike rides and camping trips, and for me, college courses.
Looking toward this fun but busy season, I’ve decided to limit my blog postings to the 2nd and 3rd weeks of the month. I hope you’ll continue to look for me then. I will, of course, be eager to visit you.
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