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Honoring Our Fallen Heroes: The History Memorial Day
Many towns and cities apparently try to claim the actual birthplace of Memorial Day, however it was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan. The first observance was on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetary.
The beggings of Memorial Day however started about twenty years early when women's groups in the South began decorating graves before the end of the Civil War. A women by the name of Nella Sweet wrote a hymn in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" that carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead.
By 1890 Memorial Day was recognized by all the northern states, although the South still refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days. After World War I the holiday was changed to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war as opposed to just the Civil War. Now it is celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May. This was passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971.
If you have ever seen people wearing red poppies, that tradition was inspired by the poem by Moina Michael:
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.
Traditional observance of Memorial Day has changed over the years as many Americans view this as the "unofficial start of summer". Many people will spend this day barbequing, going to the beach, gardening but it's important to remember that this day is to honor those fallen in service to our country.
In December 2000 President Clinton signed the "National Moment of Rememberance Act." He stated:
"Each Memorial Day, the Nation honors those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. While these heroes should be honored every day for their profound contribution to securing our Nation's freedom, they and their families should be especially honored on Memorial Day. The observance of a National Moment of Remembrance is a simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms. This Act recognizes in law a commemoration begun on Memorial Day in May 1997, when ``Taps'' was played at 3:00 p.m. on many radio and television stations across the Nation as Americans paused to remember the men and women who have lost their lives in service to our country. This past May, both a Congressional Resolution and a Presidential Proclamation called for the observance of a National Moment of Remembrance. It is my hope that the establishment of the National Moment of Remembrance in law, along with the creation of the White House Commission, will promote greater understanding of the meaning of the Memorial Day holiday for all Americans."
Arlington National Cemetery
Department of Veterans Affairs
The White House
Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
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