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American Flag Memorial Day
History

In Honor of Garland M. Jarvis & Earl S. H. Salvason,
Larry's uncles, who bravely served our country

Memorial Day is much more than a three-day weekend that marks the beginning of summer. To many people, especially the nation's thousands of combat veterans, this day, which has a history stretching back all the way to the Civil War, is an important reminder of those who died in the service of their country.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day because it was a time set aside to honor the nation's Civil War dead by decorating their graves. It was first widely observed on May 30, 1868, to commemorate the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers.


General Order No. 11 - The 30th of May, 1868, is 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. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

General John A. Logan
Grand Army of the Republic
An organization of former sailors and soldiers.
May 5, 1868

During the first celebration of Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.

In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon Johnson, declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo - which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866 - because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

Today, Memorial Day is celebrated at Arlington National Cemetery with a ceremony in which a small American flag is placed on each grave. Also, it is customary for the president or vice-president to give a speech honoring the contributions of the dead and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. About 5,000 people attend the ceremony annually.

Red White & Blue line

Read Senator John McCain's story - The Pledge of Allegiance.

Red White & Blue line

For many Americans, Memorial Day means a long weekend, backyard grilling and the unofficial kickoff of summer. But we also need to understand the meaning, the traditions and the significance of this day. Many facts about Memorial Day can be found at the website www.usmemorialday.org, including: Every Thursday before Memorial Day, soldiers from the 3rd U.S. Infantry place American Flags on the 260,000-plus grave markers at Arlington National Cemetery. The Old Guard patrols the Cemetery on 24 hour watch to guarantee that the flags remain on the stones until the official Memorial Day celebration. Servicemen's graves

The first Memorial Day was proclaimed on the fifth of May, 1868 by General John Logan, who was the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The day was observed on May 30, 1868, and flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. After World War I, Memorial Day became the official day of remembrance for American soldiers who have fallen in service to their country.

The red poppy is the traditional Memorial Day symbol. Moina Michael wrote a poem inspired by the John McCrae poem In Flanders Field. Michaels poem read We cherish, too, the Poppy red/That grows on fields where valor led,/It seems to signal to the skies/That blood of heroes never dies. Moina Michael was the first to wear a red poppy, and sold the flowers, collecting money for the benefit of servicemen in need.

In 1924, a company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania developed an artificial poppy specifically for Memorial Day celebrations. The production of those poppies employed disabled veterans who needed work. Today, the VFWs Buddy Poppy program continues, and the flowers are still assembled by disabled veterans in VA hospitals.

In December of 2000, a resolution was passed which asks that at 3 pm local time, all Americans voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.

It wasnt until 1968 that Memorial Day moved from its original May 30th date to the last Monday in May, allowing a three day weekend. In 1999, Senator Daniel Inouye introduced a bill to restore the national day of observance to May 30th, noting in his introductory remarks that we have lost sight of the significance of this day to our nation.

Instead of using Memorial Day as a time to honor and reflect on the sacrifices made by Americans in combat, many Americans use the day as a celebration of the beginning of summer. Whatever your traditions are this Memorial Day, make time to remember those who have fallen in service to their country. Visit a parade and view the monuments in your town that honor those who sacrificed their lives for all of us.

Send a FREE e-card on Memorial Day:

American Patriot - Lee Greenwood - This CD is a rousing and timeless call to American patriotism. American Patriot contains all the patriotic favorites that bring to mind the sacrifices made by Americans over these past two and one quarter centuries - from the minutemen of Concord to the men and women in uniform today, each is accorded honor. And each is warranted our respect and praise for the price they have paid to keep our country free. Includes the popular, "God Bless the U.S.A." American Patriot

The Memorial Day Book Shelf - Featuring a listing of more than 30 books, both non-fiction and fiction, about the history of Memorial Day and other related topics.
Visit Larry's Book Store for a large selection of "relationship" books, music and more.

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