He Was A Soldier
When the snow was gone and spring had arrived my grandmother would go to visit my grandfather’s grave and spruce it up. Flowers were planted. She’d add an ornament to the headstone and make it look beautiful. One time, when the weather was like a summer’s day, we had a picnic there. It seemed odd to have a picnic at a cemetery but there wasn’t any other way to share those special moments with my grandparents at the same time. I’d never met my grandfather face to face. He’d given his life in a fight for my freedom. He was a soldier. A hero, at least in my eyes. They are both remembered at different times of the year but I pay my respects to him on what was once known as Decoration Day.
Honoring Those Who Died
Per the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, “Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers.” It originally honored military personnel who died in the Civil War (1861-1865). The holiday now honors those who died in any war while serving with the United States.
A New Name
You see, Memorial Day started out as being called Decoration Day. The first northern Memorial Day was observed on May 30, 1868 (150 years ago) chosen as the ideal date for flowers to be in bloom in the North. In the South, it began on April 25, 1866 when women laid flowers on the graves of the dead in the city’s cemetery. After World War II, it became more commonly known as Memorial Day and was declared the official name in 1967. In 1971 it became a Federal holiday and was changed to the last Monday in the month, creating a three-day weekend.
“On Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day.” (per Wikipedia). The half-staff position remembers the more than one million men and women who gave their lives in service of their country. At noon, their memory is raised by the living, who resolve not to let their sacrifice be in vain, but to rise up in their stead and continue the fight for liberty and justice for all.
Ronald Reagan quote: May 31, 1982. “Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them.”
National Moment of Remembrance
In 2000, Congress established a National Moment of Remembrance, which asks Americans to pause for one minute at 3 p.m. in an act of national unity. The time was chosen because it “is the time when most Americans are enjoying their freedoms on the national holiday.”
A few years before my grandma passed away we used to watch war movies around Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day. She liked the older ones: Sergeant York (1941), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), and Patton (1970). She said they reminded her of grandpa in different ways.
I continue to pay my respects to grandpa and enjoy the many blessings I have because of his sacrifice. I manage to visit his grave site when I can.