As I write today we are having a summer day even though it is only May 18. I hope you all enjoyed that day and the weekend that followed. I certainly did because I was blest with having our children visit or call on Mother's Day and the next week I was able to plant some of the annual flowers in my beds. I planted the flowers two of my daughters brought me and then purchased some more from Miller's Greenhouse next door. It is always very difficult to pick out the ones I want because it has so many beautiful flowers. The fragrance was glorious and of course I had to visit with the gals. Finally I made some choices and told them what else I'd get after planting the first ones. I headed home to begin the task.
I'd like to tell you all about the beauty I see just outside my door these days, but I'm sure I've told you many times over the years. Moreover, want to address the topic of Memorial Day or as it was once called, Decoration Day.
Concerning the original date of honoring war soldiers there are many stories about it, but one thing for sure is special times were designated over the years to honor them. It's difficult to prove conclusively its origin, but more than likely it had many separate beginnings. However, General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, made an official proclamation in 1868 to honor the Civil War dead, each having contributed honorably to our country. A celebration was held to honor those men on May 30 that year when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National cemetery.
It is not important to remember the exact time or day the first Memorial Day began, but it is essential for us to remember it was established and it wasn't about division. It was and still is about reconciliation; its coming together to honor those who gave their all.
The first state to officially recognize Memorial Day was New York in 1873. Some time after World War I the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. Today almost every state celebrates Memorial Day though some states celebrate it on another day.
One way Memorial Day is celebrated is with patriotic parades led by a soldiers Color Guard comprised of current service men and veterans, and a service honoring all service men and women, living and dead, and especially those who gave their lives in defense of our country. Many cemeteries have flags on all the graves of veterans.
Still another way we are reminded of that special day is by purchasing a red poppy from one who is selling them. It was Moina Michael who first proposed the idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Some time later Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned about the new custom started by Michael. After she returned to France she made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women.
The poppy tradition spread to other countries and in 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit the orphans of France and Belgium. In 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to sell poppies nationally. Two years later The "Buddy" Poppy program was selling those flowers which had been made by disabled veterans. The Post Office honored Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3-cent postage stamp with her picture on it.
Unfortunately traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. It seems many Americans have forgotten what the day means. Some graves in cemeteries are no longer decorated with flowers or flags and some cemeteries are not kept in the best shape. There are also folk who don't even know the proper flag etiquette for Memorial Day. Other people think the day is just for a picnic or get-to-gather for fun and games. However, one thing that has not been neglected over the years is the way that special day is honored at the Arlington National Cemetery.
Guards patrol 24 hours a day during the holiday weekend. On the Thursday before it, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones. They then patrol 24 hours a day to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951the Boy Scouts and Club Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks Nation Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, which still continues. In 1998, on the Saturday before the special day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye's Heights. The first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years was held in Washington, D.C., in 2004.
Some of you recall Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address which states in part, "From these honored dead, we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the lost full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain."
Many years ago Hugh Robert Ore wrote a poem entitled, "They Softly Walk." The original line reads, "They are not dead who live in hearts they leave behind."
It's time for all Americans to celebrate Memorial Day in the way it was intended when it was first declared long ago. I hope you all stop and think on that special day about how many soldiers, men and women, paid the supreme sacrifice defending our great country in defense of making sure our nation never looses its freedom and justice for all and life, liberty and justice for all. Also honor all current service members and veterans on Memorial Day.