Today we celebrate Memorial Day, a day to honor all those who have died in service to the United States.
This national day of remembrance was originally called Decoration Day, as women would decorate the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War with flowers and ribbons in remembrance of their loss.
While many places claim to be the birthplace of this tradition, in 1966 President Johnson named Waterloo, NY as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. New York State was the first state to recognize the holiday (1873), and by 1890 all the northern states had recognized this day of remembrance. The southern states chose to celebrate on a separate day until after World War I, when the holiday became one to remember all who had died, and not just those from the Civil War.
Although we now celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday of May, in 1868, Gen. John Logan set May 30 as the official date of celebration, as this date had no significance to any battle that had been fought. In his General Order No. 11, he stated: “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.”
For me, Memorial Day always brings to mind the poem In Flanders Fields by Lt. Col. John McCrae.
While researching information for this post, I came across the poem We Shall Keep the Faith, written by Moina Michael in response to Lt. Col. McCrae's poem.
These images share only one stanza from each poem, and I don't want you to miss the wonderful words these poets crafted, so be sure to click on the links above to read the full poems. And take a moment today to think of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy the freedoms we all have today.