Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Memorial Day -- More Than Just the Start of Summer

When I was a child, Memorial Day was a long weekend of picnics and frolic in the parks that signaled the start of summer.

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.

This is the U. S. Post Office Stamp bearing Moina's image.

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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  1. I think many of us need to be reminded of this from time to time. It's so easy to get caught up in life and forget the reasons we enjoy our freedom.
    Great post.
    Happy T13!

  2. thanks for the bits about memorial day. it made me understand what the day is all about since i'm not american.

    happy thursday!

  3. I had always wondered how it got started.

  4. Adelle,
    You're so right. It's easy to forget.

  5. MommyBa,
    Thanks. I aim to be helpful.

  6. Alice,
    Yep, that's how Memorial Day started. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. I always like to learn where things originated. Makes me feel undeserving to celebrate a holiday without knowing the facts.

  8. Some interesting facts there. Thanks for that. Here in the UK we remember the fallen on 11 November.

  9. Wow. Great history lesson. Thanks!

  10. I love historical facts so that was a very interesting read. Thanks for sharing! My T13

  11. Thoughtful thirteen ... timely too. Thanks for the review and the reminder.
    Hugs and blessings,

  12. You know, it seems to have gained real importance over the past few years. Maybe because we've got more and more servicemen to honor...

  13. Very interesting and thoughtful. Great list!

  14. I love to see the old soldiers don their uniforms on Memorial Day, and I thank them for what they did for me.
    A thoroughly enjoyable, very timely and educating 13!

  15. A most wonderful tribute all rolled into a 13!!! Great concept.

    My post is up. Come on over and see some odd creatures. You'll be amazed. Happy Thursday.

  16. Love it when I learn something new from Thursday Thirteen!!

  17. Amy, I am Harriet, and Kim,
    Thanks, I like to write informative blogs.

  18. anthonynorth,
    Thanks for telling me about the UK. I hope to visit there someday.

  19. Storyteller and Susan Helene Gottfried,
    I appreciate your visit and your comments.

  20. Mitchypoo,Frances, and Hootin'Anni,
    I agree. It's important to remember soldiers and to thank them for their service.

  21. Tracy, I like to learn new things too.

  22. My brother's in the Air Force & I always look forward to the pictures of the Memorial Day events he attends. It always brings it home to me.
    Wonderful post.

  23. I've never seen words for Taps before. I will now be adopting those.

    The poppies thing is very big in the UK.

  24. Ella,
    I didn't know your brother was in the Air Force. My cousin is too. Thanks for dropping by.

  25. Celticlibrarian,
    I guess the words for Taps aren't official, but they are the ones I know from summers at camp.

  26. Great post. In Thornesworld we honor the warrior while opposing the war.

  27. Thorne,
    I'm with you in honoring the soldiers.

  28. 3 Sides of Crazy,
    Thanks. I appreciate you stopping by.

  29. Brenda - in Canada we turn our thoughts to our war dead on Nov. 11th, as in the UK. Our tradition of poppies comes from the John MacRae poem, In Flanders Fields:

    "In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly"

    I believe Ms. Michael was paying tribute to that poem when she began her campaign to wear poppies in remembrance. And I'm so glad she did. It's a beautiful tradition.

  30. Thanks Julia,
    I think you're right about Moina being inspired by John Mac Rae's poem. I appreciate you sharing that with me.

  31. Thanks for the fact list, I didn't know much about the background of the holiday!