Civil Air Patrol

A Memorial Day message from the Great Lakes Region Commander

Col. Robert Karton, Great Lakes Region Commander

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. It is likely that there is no single event or day that can be marked as the “beginning” of Decoration Day. The “conventional wisdom” is that it was born out of the very human need in the North to honor those who gave their all in support of the Union during the War Between the States. In any case, the growing movement culminated on 5 May 1868 with General Order No. 11 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaiming the 30th day of May 1868 as a day 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 church-yard in this land. …”

In about 1915, Moina Michael conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922, the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies. In 1924 the poppies were first constructed by disabled veterans in a factory in Pittsburg.

Memorial Day is no longer observed on 30 May. It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May as a result of an Act of Congress (the National Holiday Act of 1971) passed to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays. The traditional observation and, indeed, the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day have diminished in recent years. That diminution seems to have begun with relegating Memorial Day to just another three day weekend that happens to mark the start of summer. Memorial Day seems to be more an excuse for huge sales rather than a day to remember the men and women who have given their lives in service to our country.

To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks all Americans, at 3 p.m. local time, “to voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.”

Don’t forget flag etiquette. Fly your American flag at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day. To do this, first hoist it to the top of the pole for an instant, and then lower it to the half-staff position until noon. After the noon hour, raise the flag back to the peak of the pole.

This Memorial Day, take the time to remember its true meaning.

Stay safe!

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