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Memorial Day: A Time of Honor and Respect

Our rights and freedoms came at a high price.

By:  |  May 29, 2021  |    490 Words

Memorial Day is a day for Americans to honor and offer respect to the military men and women who gave their lives to protect their country, its people, and our liberties. It is a somber day that reminds us our constitutional rights come at a high price and should never be taken for granted.

Held the last Monday in May, it was first known as Decoration Day and began at the end of the Civil War, which claimed more lives than any other conflict in America’s history. Due to so many deaths, the nation had to create cemeteries for the soldiers. Towns started decorating their lost warriors’ graves in the late 1860s, but Memorial Day didn’t become a federal holiday until 1971. No one knows where the tradition started but the government named Waterloo, New York, as the official place of origin. Waterloo had its first ceremony on May 5, 1866.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan called for remembrance, saying the holiday would be “designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

The Red Poppy

Have you ever wondered why the red poppy is seen during Memorial and Veterans Days? The tradition got its start during World War I in Europe. After brutal battles ravaged the land, the field poppy was one of the first plants to reappear. The sight inspired Canadian soldier and physician John McCrae to write the poem “In Flanders Fields” in 1915. Flanders is a region in Belgium where McCrae fought.

Just days before WWI ended, in November 1918, American professor Moina Michael was inspired by McCrae’s poem which led her to write her own, “We Shall Keep the Faith.” In the poem, she mentions honoring the dead by wearing the “poppy red.” She became known as “The Poppy Lady,” and the tradition of wearing a single poppy was born.

Memorial Day Traditions

Memorial Day is usually celebrated with parades and gravesite services to honor and show respect for those who gave their lives in duty to their country. Military graves are decorated with flowers and flags, and people gather to hear stories and service songs.

“In Flanders Fields”

by John McCrae, May 1915

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
I
n 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.

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