Memorial Day, or Decoration Day, as it used to be called, originated in 1868, when General John A. Logan declared May 30th the day for remembrance, a day when the graves of those soldiers who had fallen in battle during the Civil War were decorated with flags, flowers and wreaths as a way of honoring and remembering them. Logan picked May 30th because it was a day on which no battles had occurred in the Civil War. The tradition continued, and, in the 1880s, Decoration Day became Memorial Day. In 1968, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was passed and in 1971, Memorial Day would always be celebrated on the last Monday in May, giving us the three-day weekend we now have.
FYI: I was reading one of my twitter feeds and came across some information about the first Memorial Day. Apparently on May 1, 1865, a group of former slaves in Charleston, SC gathered to honor the 257 Union soldiers who were buried in a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp. I learned this from Joe Braxton (@TheJoeBraxton), and you can find out more about how this was discovered HERE
In all of our national cemeteries, they still mark all the graves with a flag for this weekend. This makes me feel good, since my younger brother is buried in one of those cemeteries.
Every Memorial Day, I always think of the poem "In Flanders Fields" because I had to learn it, along with Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!," in school and I'v never forgot it. The poem has an interesting history.
In 1915, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea who a poem called "In Flanders Fields" while presiding over the funeral of a fellow fallen soldier who was killed in the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium and buried in Flanders Fields, a field were red poppies grew everywhere. McCrea was not very happy with the poem he wrote and threw it away, but one of his fellow officers saved it. It was published in Punchon December 8, 1915.
My favorite version of "In Flanders Fields" is What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? which was broadcast for Memorial Day in 1983, in which Linus recites the poem while the Peanuts gang is visiting the cemetery there:
By the way, if you see a vet selling poppies this weekend, and you decide to buy one, remember that the money goes towards helping needy veterans. Oh, and by the way, they are made by vet themselves, and although they receive a small amount of money for making poppies, for so many, it is their only source of income.
All this being said, have a healthy and safe Memorial Day and have some fun, too.
Lastly, thank you to all the scouts, scout leaders, parents, and other volunteers who will again be decorating the graves of soldiers at Calverton National Cemetery this year.