WASHINGTON: Memorial Day is the recognition of the sacrifice of Americans fighting for their country. Fifty Thousand dying in our fight for freedom, the Revolutionary War. Twenty thousand in the war of 1812. 655,000 men and boys, dying in the ashes of the American Civil War. Three hundred and twenty thousand in World War I. Over a million during World War II. Two hundred thousand plus in Vietnam. Nearly 60,00 in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Total US deaths of all wars some 2,852,901 lives lost with another 40,000 POWS AND missing. U.S. Military Casualties of War
What we now know of as Memorial Day, a day to remember those who die and were lost in our ongoing wars was originally called “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.
The meaning was so survivors would have a way of honoring the Union soldiers who gave their lives that the United States would survive as a nation.
In memory of those that gave all
Memorial Day rests upon that original foundation and continued to represent the day to remember the sacrifice of those who gave their lives in service to their country on some distant or foreign battlefield.
It is highly likely that Abraham Lincoln, as a living witness to such a horribly divisive and destructive war, felt compelled to offer perspective to Americans on the conflict. To reflect on the supreme sacrifice of so many. To pen the famous Gettysburg Address.
In the middle of the horrendous war, Abraham Lincoln expressed such a perspective in his sentiments when he honored the soldiers who fought and died at Gettysburg:
“The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.”
Red poppies – a symbol of those who died fighting for their country
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.
Remembering America’s fallen heroes on Memorial Day – Laurie Edwards-Tate
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.”
What Lincoln at Gettysburg did to put the war in context, applies to the United States today:
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.