THE MEANING BEHIND MEMORIAL DAY
By: Heather Skovlund-Reibsamen
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes.” – Maya Angelou
Memorial Day, once referred to as Decoration Day, is an American holiday in the United States that honors military personnel along as well as mourn those that we have lost along the way. Decoration Day was for decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags. Memorial Day is formerly observed on the last Monday of May each year. It is a solemn day, but it is also important to reflect upon, appreciate and be thankful for the freedom that we all get to enjoy every day in the United States of America.
Many gather with friends and family for barbeques and celebrating the beginning of summer while others visit cemeteries and memorials to remember their loved ones lost. Each year a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time on Memorial Day. It is important to remember that we are not celebrating the wars, instead we are remembering those who served and those who gave their last breath in order to ensure that the freedoms of our country would be passed on to the next generations. We remember for the price they paid for the cost of our freedom – their lives given so ours could go on.
Memorial Day was originated after the American Civil War, where the United States faced the task of burying and honoring 600,000 to 800,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the bloodiest military conflict in American history. The first commemoration of Memorial Day was held in Arlington National Cemetery on May 30, 1868. On this day, both Union and Confederate soldiers were laid to rest. Over the years, cities across the United States host Memorial Day parades that involve military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Americans sometimes wear a red poppy in remembrance of their loved ones, which is a tradition that was born from a World War 1 poem.
“In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Memorial Day has a different meaning behind it for every American. Here at 360 Magazine, we were able to get a few opinions from veterans in the United States.
- Kyle Skovlund: United States Air Force – Memorial Day has a different meaning for me. Growing up, my parents would travel to Brookings, South Dakota each year to put flowers on the graves of those they had lost. When my own daughter passed away, I began doing the same thing. Memorial Day, for me, is a day to reflect on those that have been lost.
- Michael Miller: United States Air Force – Memorial Day means remembering and celebrating. Remembering the great men and women that gave their life for our great nation and celebrating the freedoms their sacrifices have given us.
- J.M. Skovlund: United States Army – “Memorial Day means exactly what it was intended for, to remember and honor our fallen. They went above and beyond for our country, for the soldier on their left and right, and that’s something not everyone can say.” “Go out and remember the fallen the way you see fit. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. If it’s having a drink in their honor, do that. If it’s going to their grave to chat, do that. Either way, remember the fallen the best way you can, don’t disgrace them.”