Unofficially, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer.
Many employees are off work. School is out. Pools are open. Barbecue grills are lit.
But Memorial Day, was actually established to honor those who died in military service to the United States.
Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day was born out of the desire to honor those who had fallen in battle. Decoration Day was first declared in 1868 by the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.
The first Decoration Day was held at Arlington National Cemetery, and a crowd of about 5,000 honored the graves of 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. It wasn’t until 1971 that Memorial Day became a federal holiday set aside on the fourth Monday of each May.
Since the 1920’s, America’s veterans have also been remembered with red poppy’s. In 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies.
The tradition of honoring World War I veterans with poppies began with Moina Michael, who was the first to design and wear a red poppy in honor of World War I veterans.
Michael wrote a poem whose verses will always be relevant:
“We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led.
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.”