Memorial Day once again. The start of summer, warm weather, celebration. Everyone has plans for a fun-filled extended weekend.
- Beach activity
- Road trips
- Family reunions
And, for millions of race fans the 51st annual NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 takes place at the famed Charlotte Motor Speedway and the 100th Anniversary of the Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Yes, there will be plenty to do for Americans from coast to coast this weekend. However, I challenge you to devote a short 15 minutes of your 96-hour weekend to sit down with your children and/or grandchildren and ask them if they know why Memorial Day was established. I feel confident they won’t know. So take that opportunity to enlighten them at a time when our country is at war all over the globe.
Memorial Day is a U.S. federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. It was formally known as Decoration Day due to the fact that families would commemorate the grave sites and memorials of men and women who died while in the military service. A national moment of remembrance takes place at 3 p.m. local time. Another tradition is to fly the flag of the U.S. at half-staff from dawn until noon local time.
Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars collect donations for poppies in the days leading up to Memorial Day; the poppy’s significance to Memorial Day is the result of the John McCrae poem “In Flanders Fields.”
At one time this “poppy” phenomenon was celebrated, supported, and treasured by Americans all over the country. Sadly, today, few know the significance.
While we’re celebrating all of the activities listed above, we tend to forget that hundreds of thousands of U.S. men and women are stationed all over the world protecting our freedoms and way of life. These military heroes have sacrificed their way of life back home in order that we may enjoy our lives here with our loved ones.
Located in the shadow of our nation’s capitol, Arlington National Cemetery averages 15 funerals per day, approximately 3,000 annually. It is expected to reach capacity in the year 2020, when more than 250,000 people will have been buried.
Over the Memorial Day weekend, flags are placed on each grave in the cemetery. Troops from the Old Guard (3rd Infantry) have flags on all the graves by dawn and the flags remain on the grave sites until after the Memorial Day Service.
Arlington National Cemetery is the only military cemetery that is authorized to use horses as a regular part of its ceremony.
Nearby there are approximately 16,000 ceremonies conducted annually at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
This year, let’s not forget the purpose of Memorial Day. Pause to honor those who are and have been so deserving of our respect and eternal appreciation.