Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic (Union Civil War veterens) and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own Poem:
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.
It was Ms. Michael who conceived of the idea of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day to honor those who died in service. She was the first to wear one and sold poppies to her friends with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to sell poppies. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy Movement by issuing a postage stamp with her likeness on it.
Today, Memorial Day signals for many the beginning of summer-time, we celebrate with a three day weekend, barbeques, camping trips and other enjoyable events. But, let us not forget that the freedom’s we enjoy have been paid for with blood. Our rights to self govern and live in freedom are dearly paid for. When I hear the soulful refrain of the bugles’ call, I can’t help but think of all the young men who have died in our defense. I think of their lives cut short; never to find love, never to hold their first-born, never to read any of the great literature written afterwards, never to grow old.
To help remind Americans of the true reason for Memorial Day, the “National Moment of Remembrance” asks for all Americans at 3 p.m. local time, “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’.” So, on Memorial Day, let us take at least a moment to reflect upon all the sacrifices made on our behalf. Let us think of the dead; awaken them in our minds –see them as they were, smiling, laughing, alive. Feel their presence. To all those who have put themselves in harm’s way in order to serve ---- to all those, who, in the line of duty, gave the last full measure we owe a special debt. They have left us with a legacy. We stand here today as if on their shoulders. We feel gratitude, of course, for their contributions, as well we should, but especially on this day we cannot forget all the sacrifices made thus far upon the altar of freedom. We, the living, must heed their voices and continue their work; --- we must feel privileged to be able to enjoy these freedoms - so dearly paid for. We must not forget, nor take for granted, the opportunities we have as a result of these sacrifices and should strive to “earn this” … this precious gift given us.