The true meaning of Memorial Day

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The true meaning of Memorial Day

by: Kim Suchek | .
. | .
published: May 29, 2013

Hello Military Community,

May is Military Appreciation Month and is filled with special days: Memorial Day, Loyalty Day, V.E. Day, Military Spouse Day and Armed Forces Day. I think most Americans do not understand the true meaning behind these days nor what a true hero is.

It is important that we do not forget the sacrifices of our military service members. We must pause to honor, reflect and remember the precious lives lost while fighting in wars to protect our freedoms.

When I ask a teenager or young adult if they understand the meaning behind Memorial Day - which we observed May 27 - and why or how it became a holiday most say, “no.” When asked who inspires them, the answers are reality TV stars, movie stars or athletes. I find this disheartening. History and time has shown that when you forget the past, history will repeat itself.

This week I felt it was important to go over a few of the facts regarding Memorial Day: It was founded by Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, a Civil War veteran in 1868. Following the war, a small group of women went to a cemetery in Columbus, Miss. and honor soldiers of both the North and South by putting flowers on their graves.

Memorial Day is a national holiday set aside to honor military service members who died fighting in a war. It is not to be confused with Veterans Day, Nov. 11, which is in honor of all military veterans.

Memorial Day was initially called Decoration Day because graves were decorated with flowers and flags. In May 1874, Laura D. Richardson, chairperson of the committee charged with obtaining flowers for the graves at the Knoxville, Tenn., national cemetery, saw flags in a store window. She purchased the flags; the local lumber mill provided wood for tiny flagpoles. This began the tradition we have today. The holiday name was changed to emphasize the fallen, not the graves.

Poppies are a symbol of war dead and have been worn on Memorial Day since 1915; every year the president of the United States gives a speech and places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at the Arlington National Cemetery.

Memorial Day was observed on May 30, but it was moved to the last Monday of May to make a three-day weekend when Congress made it a national holiday in 1971. I believe this change has contributed to Americans neglecting the true meaning of the holiday.

In an effort to remind and re-educate Americans about the true meaning of Memorial Day, the National Moment of Remembrance on Memorial Day was established by Congress in 2000. Americans are asked to pause at 3 p.m. local time and remember our Fallen. I set time aside this past Memorial Day to  remember and say a prayer for those who are currently deployed, as well as their families. I know thousands of others did as well. We must never forget.

“The beginning of the end of war lies in remembrance”
– Herman Wouk

“That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under god, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”
– Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address, 1863.

Best wishes from my family to yours,

Kim Suchek

If you have any questions or concerns or would like to share a story or situation, contact me at Kim@MilitaryResourceBooks.com and visit my website at MilitaryResourceBooks.com for updated information and other resources not listed in my book.