Another year has passed and we are steadily approaching summer with Spring in full blossom. This time of year we are also anticipating a welcomed three day holiday weekend. Memorial Day weekend somewhat marks the beginning of our warm season, outdoor activities, picnics, drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and family gatherings. More importantly though, how many of us know the meaning and origin of Memorial Day?
It was originally called Decoration Day, a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Waterloo, NY officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966. Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead, officially proclaimed May 5th, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The “30th day 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”, he proclaimed”. The date of Decoration Day , as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle. At first the holiday was only recognized by all the northern states and the South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I when the holiday changed to honoring all Americans who died fighting in any war. It is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May. It is also a National Federal holiday ensuring a three day weekend. Red Poppies often seen worn at Memorial Day events honoring those who died serving the nation during war were first inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields” however Moina Michael replied by writing her own poem:
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
For the last 9 years I have had the honor to present white doves as the finale to the Memorial Day event held in nearby Black Mountain, NC. This years event will be on May 30th at the Veteran’s Cemetery in Black Mountain, NC.
The following is a letter I received from last year’s memorial event:
Dear Ms. Gaunt: On behalf of the Buncombe County Veterans Council and the Charles George VA Medical Center, we thank you for your participation in the Memorial Day Program held May 25, 2015. This special day of solemness engenders a call to our Nation to stop, remember, reflect and honor the sacrifices made by those who served. As you know many Veterans remember their comrades every day, this each day is Memorial Day. We are grateful to you as our Nation paused to remember the sacrifices of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guards made in serving our Nation where and when they were needed. Sincerely yours Alyce Knaflich, Chair, Buncombe County Veterans Council and Cynthia Breyfogle, Fache, Medical Center Dirctor, June 29, 2015