What is it?

Memorial Day is traditionally celebrated on last Monday in May and is a sacred day to all war veterans. America's collective consciousness demands that all citizens be reminded of the deaths of their fellow countrymen during wartime. By honoring the nation's war dead, we preserve their memory and thus their service and sacrifice. All U.S. flags should be displayed at half-staff during the morning hours. At noon, they should be raised back to full-staff.

Far too often, the nation as a whole takes for granted the freedoms all Americans enjoy. Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of others few of us actually knew. That’s why they are all collectively remembered on one special day. By honoring the nation’s war dead, we preserve their memory and thus their service and sacrifice in the memories of future generations. 

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Suggestions for demonstrating remembrance

  • Pausing for a few moments of personal silence is available to everyone. 

  • Placing flags at grave sites, if allowed

  • Putting a flag as your Profile Picture on Social Media

  • Volunteer to join a VFW Post or Auxiliary

  • Donate to a memorial fund for veterans (Homeless veterans are especially vulnerable)

  • Donate to a VFW Home

  • Learn about PTSD

  • Teach a young person the importance of honoring those who have served and lost their lives in that service.

History

The first Memorial Day in the United States began during the Civil War, but the notion of honoring the fallen soldiers dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans.  

In the United States, on May 1, 1865, more than 1,000 recently freed slaves, accompanied by regiments of the Massachusetts 54th Infantry and white Charlestonians gathered in the camp (a former racetrack) to consecrate a new, proper burial site for the Union dead. The group sang hymns, gave readings and distributed flowers around the cemetery, which they dedicated to the “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

Many people remember Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address as a piece to honor the fallen soldiers.  As an educator, daughter/granddaughter and great niece of veterans, president of the VFW Auxiliary #1593 in Hawthorne, The Gettysburg Address, while short, is a powerful testament to the human condition of honoring the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers. 

“The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863

The first national celebration of Memorial Day took place May 30, 1868, at Arlington National Cemetery.

*Information and quotes obtained from the VFW site, History site and the Gettysburg Address.