From my journal: May 27, 1994 Rolling Hills Estates, California
“Looking forward to the long weekend…will be going to Ella & Ralph’s for a cookout.”
I have to admit that in the past I was always happy when Memorial Day rolled around. But… it was more about having the day off, getting together with family and friends and anticipating the beginning of summer, than it was about celebrating the true reason for this holiday.
First known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is an American federal holiday observed on the last Monday in May and has been since the end of the Civil War. Then, the need to honor military personnel became important as monuments were erected and dedicated to fallen soldiers. Now, this holiday has expanded to include all who died in any American war.
Ways to celebrate this important day include displaying an American flag at home, attending a parade in which military personnel and veterans are participating, volunteering to place flags at grave sites and wearing a red poppy. Moina Michael, also referred to as the Poppy Lady, popularized this tradition after being inspired by John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Field”.
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.
It was noted that red poppies were the first plants to reappear in the ground of war torn battlefields in Europe. Hence, poppies have come to symbolize the loss of life, but also recovery and new life.
Another way to observe this special day is by pausing during the national Moment of Remembrance that takes place at 3:00pm local time. It’s a moment to say a prayer or simply give thanks to one of our country’s greatest assets. Our soldiers, our heroes, who have defended our nation from war and impending dangers. Their bravery and courage are to be commended as they have put their lives on the line to protect the United States and have made the ultimate sacrifice for us all.
I still look forward to Memorial Day each May. I still enjoy the day with others and I still welcome in summer, too. But now, as well, I do keep in mind the true reason for this holiday and I am grateful for it. We are after all, the home of the free, because of the brave.