For many, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer. The three-day weekend will be the excuse to break out the grill, begin to wear white, head to Smith Lake with family and maybe, just maybe, break out Old Glory for a spin in the blustery winds of May. For some, Memorial Day is something to “celebrate” as it means a day off from work and some sales at local auto dealers or mattress shops.
Over the years, Memorial Day has shifted in its meaning. Some believe it is a day to remember all those who have passed. That sentiment may be nice, but it is not the true meaning of the day.
Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for U.S. soldiers who died in military service. It was first observed in 1868, when flowers were placed on graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It later changed from honoring the dead from the Civil War to honoring the dead from all American wars. Once known as “Decoration Day,” it was traditionally observed on May 30. Now it is on the last Monday in May to create the three-day weekend.
Around Memorial Day, Veterans of Foreign Wars members and American Legion Auxiliary volunteers distribute red poppies in exchange for donations to programs that aid disabled veterans. The tradition began after World War I was inspired by the poem “In Flanders Field,” which described the wild red poppies growing on a Belgian battlefield. Wearing a red poppy soon became tradition in memory of the sacrifices of war. Another tradition is to fly American flags at half-staff in memory, then have the living raise them at noon as a symbol of carrying on. In recent years, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts have begun the tradition of placing American flags at soldiers’ grave sites.
This year, the Knights of Columbus, Council #8551, of St. Cecilia Catholic Church will hold its 13th Memorial Day Ceremony on Monday at Walker Memory Gardens at 10 a.m. in the veteran section of the cemetery. This ceremony will honor Master Sergeant James “Jay” Snow Jr. and his family. Grand Knight-elect Ernest Inman, a 10-year Navy veteran, will be the guest speaker. The Daily Mountain Eagle has covered this event each year, and it is a moving remembrance of those local men and women who have died in military service. We would urge anyone with a patriotic heart to attend the ceremony.
The sacrifice of those who died in service for our country should be remembered, and that remembrance should be more than just a family get-together or a day in the park. At the very least, we should all take a moment to reflect upon those who died in service and explain what the day means to our children. It is a tradition worth carrying on.
May you all have a blessed Memorial Day.