Author: Attorney Melinda H. South
The last Monday of May is Memorial Day, the unofficial beginning of summer – a day for picnics, barbecues, family reunions, parades and sporting events. Two auto races are run on Memorial Day: the Indianapolis 500 since 1911 and the Coca-Cola 600, since 1961. There is also a National Memorial Day Concert on the west lawn of the United States Capitol.
Memorial Day was formerly known as Decoration Day because it was a time that people set aside to decorate graves of those who served in the Civil War. The use of the designation “Memorial Day” was more commonly used after World War II and made the official name in 1967. Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday in 1971. The holiday is a time set aside to honor the men and women who have died serving in the American military.
Each Memorial Day there is a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, and the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. As many as 5,000 people attend this ceremony.
For the past 40 years, the 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) have placed American flags at each grave in Arlington National Cemetery. The flags are centered in front of the grave markers and placed one foot away. There are more than 260,000 gravestones. The soldiers remain in the cemetery for the weekend to ensure the flags remain standing. See http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org.
Red poppies are recognized as the Memorial Day flower. In 1915 Moina Michael, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields” wrote the following poem:
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.
She then decided wearing red poppies was a way to honor those who died serving our country during war. She sold poppies, and gave the proceeds to benefit servicemen in need. This tradition continues today.
No matter what plans you may have for this Memorial Day, don’t forget to take time to remember the reason behind this holiday and the sacrifices made by those who made our freedom possible. And have a safe and happy holiday.
About the Author: Melinda H. South is an Richmond attorney with the personal injury law firm of Allen & Allen. Melinda works as a legal researcher and assists in the preparation of firm briefs and legal memoranda.