Memorial Day is an opportunity to treat family and friends to BBQ made with that ?secret rub”, go to a ballpark and cheer on the home team, or cool off at the local pool. But before we enjoy the day, it is important to remember why we have this holiday. It is also important to teach our children and grandchildren that this day isn?t just about brisket, baseball, or a new swimsuit.
Originally dubbed ?Decoration Day? during the Civil War, Memorial Day was established to remember our nation?s soldiers who gave their lives while serving during a time of war. Their graves were to be ?decorated? with flowers.
One hundred years ago, another tradition was added. Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae (a WWI brigade surgeon) wrote the poem ?In Flanders Field? as the voice of fallen soldiers buried under the poppies. That poem touched the entire English speaking world.? It inspired the newly-formed American Legion to promote the wearing of a red poppy to remember their ultimate sacrifice.
Lest we forget, years of patriotic parades, concerts, and veteran-organized ceremonies have publicly demonstrated our appreciation. Teaching Memorial Day flag etiquette continues to acknowledge the somber meaning of the day. Placing small American flags on veterans? graves shows reverence for their lives and honors their service.
In 1997, with the passage of Public Law 106-579, Congress designated a ?National Moment of Remembrance? to be observed each Memorial Day. As an act of national unity, Americans are asked to keep silent for one minute at exactly 3:00 pm (local time). ?Taps? can be played while we quietly reflect on the sacrifices made by the men and women of our Armed Forces.
Freedom has never been free. The price is still being paid today. So as we enjoy our fun-filled Memorial Day celebrations today, let?s take a few minutes to pause and appreciate our freedom ? then add our own personal tribute in memory of those who served.
Catherine Mondy-Boyce, Delmont (Cumberland County), NJ
May 27, 2019
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