Visiting cemeteries on Memorial Day when I was a child. Just whoever was dead and around, you know, but of course it didn't start out that way. Here's information I culled about Memorial Day, and how it is different from Veteran's Day (and to my mind, should remain so.) I liked our cemetery tradition, I mean, I like how that's what it became. But as I grow older, I'm more connected to more history, and I like that, as well.
Yesterday at Kroger, veterans were handing out paper poppies for Memorial Day. They are to honor the war dead, of course, and I got to thinking about how people confuse that with Veterans Day, maybe because of how Remembrance Day is honored overseas.
You see, Memorial Day began here after the Civil War, but the poppy tradition was added after World War 1, and that tradition is followed in the UK and Canada, and a few other places, specifically on November 11. The first poppy was worn by an American in 1918 as a symbol of remembrance, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Field," by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian doctor who fought in the war. And because we already had Memorial Day, when Armistice (now Veterans) Day in the U.S. was established, it was to honor all veterans, living and dead. Of course, no one then wanted to imagine another such war could occur...
So here's some information on Memorial Day, from the VA, and from a quiz at this blog: http://carolyncholland.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/11-facts-about-memorial-day/ I left out her bonus question as it was not quite correct, though mostly.
Why was May 30 chosen as Memorial Day?
—The last Monday of May was chosen to coincide with the time when flowers would be blooming all over the country.
What was the first state to officially recognize Memorial Day?
How do the soldiers of the 3rd U. S. Infantry participate in Memorial Day?
—Since the late 1950s, on the Thursday just before Memorial Day, around 1200 soldiers of the 3rd US Infantry place small American flags at each of more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.
What does the National Moment of Remembrance Resolution ask Americans to do on Memorial Day?
—Americans are asked to observe a moment of remembrance and respect by pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence, or listening to taps, at 3:00 p. m.
Who presided over the first Memorial Day?
—General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant
When was Memorial Day first celebrated?
—May 30, 1868. It was observed by placing flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers during the first national celebration. Gen. James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which around 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.
What is the birthplace of Memorial Day?
—Waterloo, N.Y. is considered its birthplace because the residents were the first people to proclaim a day, May 5, 1866, to honor soldiers who died in the Civil War. They closed their businesses and placed flowers and flags on the graves of their soldiers.
When did Congress declare Memorial Day a national holiday?
When should the American flag be raised from half staff to full staff on Memorial Day?
Who was General John A. Logan?
—Maj. Logan was the head of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of Union Civil War Veterans, who took charge of Memorial Day celebrations in the Northern States. He first declared Memorial Day a special day to honor Union soldiers killed in battle.