On Monday, May 30, the nation will celebrate Memorial Day. Traditionally, this three-day weekend is a time of family gatherings, picnics, parades, and even fireworks. It’s known for being an optimal time of the year for grilling out – usually hot dogs and hamburgers. People in this country plan all kinds of outdoor activities in public parks, town squares, lakes, rivers, and of course, the beaches. It’s also the unofficial start of the summer season – when the kids are out of school, summer camps spring to life, the weather turns hot, and sunglasses become part of our daily wardrobe.
But let us not forget why we, in America, have these sacred privileges. You see, Memorial Day is supposed to be a solemn occasion.
The day is set aside to honor U.S. military service members who died in the service of our country. Those brave men and women who, as President Lincoln once eloquently stated, “…gave their last full measure of devotion.” That quote is from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a two-minute speech he gave on Nov. 19, 1863 that he was certain would not be remembered for any significance at the time. The Civil War was still raging. The country was still a divided nation, with brother fighting against brother in a conflict that would ultimately claim more than 600,000 American lives.
Memorial Day began in 1868, established by an organization of Union Veterans who initially named the occasion, “Decoration Day.” It was a time to visit the cemeteries and commemorate their fallen comrades by placing flowers at their gravesites. In 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday – reserved for the last Monday in May of each year.
Here are a few Memorial Day traditions you may be unfamiliar with…
- At sunrise, American flags are to be hoisted quickly to full staff, but then immediately lowered to half-staff until noon local time. After the noon hour has passed, the flag is to be returned to full staff
- The official moment of remembrance on Memorial Day is 3:00 p.m. local time. In a tradition established long ago, all Amtrak train conductors are to sound one long whistle at this moment to honor the dead
- The Lincoln Memorial was dedicated on Memorial Day of 1922
Thank you for reading our FranNet of Dallas, Fort Worth and Oklahoma blog post about Memorial Day. As we go about our weekend plans, perhaps this information will inspire you to take a few moments to remember our fallen service members. It’s the least we can do to honor their sacrifice. May you and your families enjoy a safe and enjoyable holiday.