SAN DIEGO, May 24, 2016 — Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday commemorating fallen veterans, observed annually on the last Monday in May.
Originally known as Decoration Day, it was first celebrated in 1868 following the end of the Civil War, as an attempt to heal a divided nation while also honoring the soldiers who had died.
An act of Congress proclaimed Memorial Day an official U.S. federal holiday in 1971, thereby establishing it as part of a three-day weekend holiday and the unofficial first day of summer.
The red poppy worn on the lapels of many Americans is the traditional way to acknowledge Memorial Day and its meaning.
Poppies’ abundant seeds, stimulated to grow when the ground is disrupted, proliferated upon multitudes of gravesites dug to bury brave soldiers who died during World War I.
Revered as the symbol for loss of life, they also represent the antithesis–a symbol of recovery, renewal and new life–beautifully depicted in the following poem written by John McCrae in 1915.
“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
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Today, American flags are lowered to half-mast until noon every Memorial Day, honoring the over one million American soldiers who gave their lives so that we may celebrate in peace.
In addition to the family gatherings, picnics, parades and other social events, it is important to give thanks to and remember those who bravely fought our Nation’s wars, defending freedom and the American way of life.
“Who kept the faith and
fought the fight; The glory
theirs, the duty ours.”
Memorial Day weekend is also a popular time for family vacations and travel.
One unique way to add special meaning to Memorial Day is to visit the VA National Cemetery located in your hometown or state, paying tribute to family, friends or other patriots who deserve to be honored and remembered.
You may locate the closest VA National Cemetery at http://www.cem.va.gov/CEM/cems/2016_Memorial_Day_Ceremonies.asp.
This site provides an alphabetic listing by state, with locations, telephone numbers and times for special celebratory events.
Spend time in silence, gazing at the gravesites, paying tribute to the sacrifices so bravely made by so many souls.
Imagine the impact their absence has had in the lives of their families and loved ones.
Adorn the grave(s) with small American flags and flowers.
Thank God for them each and every day.
“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”
– Joseph Campbell
As we enjoy the fun and festivities of the Memorial Day weekend, let us all also express our gratitude for veterans who have died in service of their country, veterans who are among us, and for a country that promotes freedom so precious that so many are willing to die for it.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is a health care provider of over 32 years. As a featured “Communities Digital News” columnist, LifeCycles with Laurie Edwards-Tate emphasizes healthy aging and maintaining independence, while delighting and informing its readers. Laurie is a recognized expert in home and community-based, long-term care services, and is also an educator.
In addition to writing for “Communities Digital News,” Laurie is the President and CEO of her firm, At Your Home Familycare, which serves persons of all ages who are disabled and infirm with a variety of non-medical, in-home care and concierge services.
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