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Let us be mindful of the day

May 27, 2016
Shepherdstown Chronicle

As we look ahead with anticipation to a three-day weekend, let us all remember that Memorial Day is not just a day for us to sleep in, cook out or go to take advantage of some sale or other.

It is a day to honor those who have served our country and given their lives as part of that service.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America.

Over two dozen cities and towns claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. While Waterloo New York 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.

For those who do not know the history of the origins of Memorial Day, it was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor the dead.

It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11. "The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land," he proclaimed.

The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn't the anniversary of any particular battle.

According to usmemorialday.org, on the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

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 refused to acknowledge the day, honoring 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).

You may note that members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars hand out small red poppies on Memorial Day.

Moina Michael 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. Two years later their "Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.

So please make an effort to buy a poppy if you are given opportunity.

And note that there is a "National Moment of Remembrance" at 3 p.m. local time. The resolution for this was passed in December 2000 and 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."

After honoring those whom we should, then we may take advantage of the day for other purposes.

 
 
 

 

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