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Friday, May 23, 2008

What's so important about this Monday?

This Monday is Memorial Day in the US. For those who don't know why we celebrate, here's the story as told by an excellent website dedicated to this special day:
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day.... It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.... Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, ... and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
Unfortunately for many Americans, Memorial Day is now only a 3-day weekend that we use to kick off summer with picnics and family gatherings.
Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.
Not everyone has forgotten however ...
There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50's on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the 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. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye's Heights. And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.
This year, take time on Memorial Day to remember WHY we have this holiday. Click here for activities you can do on your own or with your family to show respect for our fallen soldiers. Get your kids (or yourself!) to do this internet scavenger hunt to learn more about Memorial Day.

Of course, there are always books to read! Here are a few designed to explain Memorial Day to children:
And here are a few books for adults that tie in with Memorial Day:
I'm not sure what I'll do to acknowledge Memorial Day this year. Maybe I'll take my son to the local veterans cemetery to put flowers on the graves. But whatever we do, be sure that I will remind my son to say 'Thank You' to every soldier he sees and respect the memory of our fallen soldiers. How will you recognize this holiday?

Click here for another blogger's post on this topic. And here are a few great quotes and pics.

Update: If you'd like to see what we ACTUALLY did on Memorial Day, click here. And click here to read a true WWII story.


Naomi said...

I've always felt the same way...seems so sad that Memorial Day is all about bbq's, esp now w/ this never-ending war going on. I'm sorry to say I don't do as much as I'd like, but a close friend served in Vietnam and even though he doensn't like to aknowledge it, I try to do something nice for him every Memorial Day.

Nit said...

I totally agree! My husband is in the army & currently deployed in Iraq & it makes me so mad when people treat Memorial Day as just a day to get drunk & BBQ!

You are has a much higher purpose & I love the ideas you gave for celebrating it.

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