Monday, May 25, 2009
Really Remembering Memorial Day
In the Herriman,UT Cemetery there are 2 generic graves. One is labeled "Indian woman" and the other "Negro Woman." No name, No dates. Just a simply concrete slab depicting their gender and race. Just like every other resting place in that cemetery I don't know who they are, how they lived or how they died so why should I care. I wonder if they lived as anonymously as they died? Did they belong to someone? Servant? Slave? Mother? Sister? Wife? Niece? Obviously daughters. Were they victims of crime? War? Or did they slip out of this life peacefully... or alone?
I'm not sure why it has effected me so. I do have a friend who has a child buried in there, with name, date and usual information. When we visit that resting place we also visit the other two. I guess we've sort of Adopted them. Although today was an easy day to remember them... Today was NOT their day.
This may sound cold and mean hearted. There are 364 days to remember them. However today is Memorial Day.
There's a strange thing that goes on in Utah on Memorial Day. I've never seen it done in other states that I've lived so if it happens where you are let me know.
I recognized one memorial day my step mother getting loads and loads of flower bouquets. I was thinking "how many vet's does she know?" Well it turns out that she was getting bouquet for everyone in the family that passed way. So I guess memorial day for them is in memory of everyone.
I'm not sure if I like or agree with it. On the other hand I guess if you don't feel like paying respect on birthdays, special occasions, other holidays, anniversaries or just because... at least they're visited on 1 day of the year.
Growing up in Michigan Memorial Day was a military holiday. I think I like it that day. Was is not first recognized as a National Day of mourning for those who served our country and paid the ultimate cost for our freedom?
It feels as if this day is just an excuse to pay guilty respects to passed on family members who may be mostly neglected during the year, a free day off work, a reason to picnic and party and the kick off of the summer season. We do all these thing in the name of "tradition" however very few of us recognize how the tradition began.
A little History if you will:
The first memorial day was observed on May 1, 1865 by liberated slaves at the Washington Race Course (today the location of Hampton Park) in Charleston, South Carolina. The site had been used as a temporary Confederate prison camp as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who died in captivity. The freed slaves disinterred the dead Union soldiers from the mass grave to be inhumed properly reposed with individual graves, built a fence around the graveyard with an entry arch, declaring it a Union graveyard. On May 30, 1868, the freed slaves returned to the graveyard with flowers they had picked from the countryside and decorated the individual gravesites, thereby creating the first Decoration Day. Thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers paraded from the area, followed by much patriotic singing and a picnic.*
Memorial Day was first called Decoration day. Created by freed blacks & Union Soldiers. In honor of soldier who died for their freedom.
These slaves were set free and upon recognizing the soldiers in a mass grave, they extracted then one by one, respectfully & properly created individual graves for each soldier. Then build a fence around them and an entry arch and created a hollowed place of rest.
They were slaves who could have ran like the wind in fear of being recaptured, beaten or killed. They could have rejoiced in their freedom and been on their merry way. I am impressed at the act of service, love and care they had for those they probably didn't even know. I'm sure it took them a couple years to complete the task, putting their lives on hold to insure a final resting place for those who gave their own life.
This is one of many stories about the first Decoration/Memorial day. The South has their own version. The Government have their own version. Everyone has their own version. Is it any surprise I like this version?
I dare say we've gotten away from knowing the true meaning of Memorial day and I find I'm not alone in this. What I remember most about Memorial day growing up was it was always the first thing we really did as a family after the last day of school. We got dressed, went to the parade. There were lots of soldiers, tanks, military vehicles, flags and bands playing all the patriotic songs and themes of the military. And then we would head over to Bailey park with the family and have a picnic and hear the adults talk about their time in the military. For the most part, we were dressed in Red, white and blue. It think I enjoyed it more as a child. I can remember the park on Van Buren and Washington Ave where the Dairy Queen used to be was planted with red poppies, and some other red, white and blue flowers. I don't believe that poppies or the understanding of poppies are even observed anymore.
Red Poppies for Memorial Day:
"In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," Moina Michael replied with her own 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 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. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms.Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it."**
I remember the Poppy Postage stamps always used to surface around this time of year. Where are they now?
"Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen 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 that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans "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."
The Moment of Remembrance is a step in the right direction to returning the meaning back to the day. What is needed is a full return to the original day of observance. Set aside one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country."***
I hope those who read this will take it upon themselves to reinstate and educate the true meaning of Memorial Day.
And to those how are still Confused, here is a little Reminder:
Memorial Day: The day you honor and pay respects to all of the fallen soldiers, who died in service of their country.
Armed Forces Day When U.S citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.
Flag Day The day you show respect and honor for the meaning of the stars and stripes by displaying it.
Independence Day The day we celebrate the history, government, and traditions of the United States.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day National Recognition and memorial for those who are and were Prisoners of war or missing in action.
Veterans Day Honoring American Veterans of all Wars.
Now there are a slew of less known uncelebrated holiday in between such at the birth dates of each military branches and days for military mothers and families.
For the record, were I in charge of this great nation, I would try and instate free medical, clothing, housing, food and education for life for anyone who honorably served in the military for a decent amount of time. I think one of the disgraces of this country is the degradation and dishonor our country has shown those who served in the military. For a people who served our country with their lives, how well are we serving their lives as a country? Many of our Vets are homeless, jobless, have mental health issues, can't provide for themselves or their families. We ought to do a better job at sustaining and more permanent decent way of life for them.
*that's just me* DO YOU HEAR ME OBAMA??? (this is not the opportunity to start baggin on our new president either... remember he's inherited this mess of a country and is already being blamed for it)
Let us always have the desire to look for the true meaning and learn of those things we are privileged to take part of.
(* resource: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memorial_Day "history")
( **, *** resources: http://www.usmemorialday.org/backgrnd.html)