Memorial Day observations

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. Temperatures are pleasant. School is out with graduations and celebrations abound. Families are beginning their vacations, long days are spent at the swimming pool, and meals are shared over backyard barbeques. This is the classic American image of summer.

We are very fortunate to live in a country where all of this is made possible.

Yet, Memorial Day is meant to serve as a day of remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice others have paid so that we can enjoy our freedoms without the threat of war, invasion, and further loss of life. It is a common tradition to visit a cemetery with flowers, small flags, and wreaths to be placed upon the graves of those who’ve given their lives when serving in our Nation’s military. Some communities also host yearly parades, public speeches, and motorcycle rallies.

A simple way you can pay tribute to our Nation’s fallen defenders/servicemembers is to post an American Flag outside your home. Colorful and patriotic, the American Flag reminds us all the liberty and freedom others have fought so selflessly to protect and preserve.

But while folks will display our Nation’s flag to celebrate the day, many may not know there is a proper way to honor those who have fallen. Here is a great way to teach your children or grandchildren more about the importance of Memorial Day through the use of the American Flag:

On the morning of Memorial Day, quickly raise the American Flag to the top of the flagpole, then slowly lower it to half-mast. This is to honor the fallen servicemembers who died for our country over the years.

At noon, raise the flag to full height to symbolize the resolve of those still living to continue fighting for our freedoms.

By involving our children and grandchildren in these traditions, we have more opportunities to share the significance of this historic holiday and why it is recognized at the end of May every year.

The original idea for what is now known as Memorial Day came from Illinois Senator John Alexander Logan in 1868. Over 620,000 soldiers died during the American Civil War. As a Union general during the war, General Logan used his position as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (an organization of Union soldiers), to issue a proclamation for a national “Decoration Day” to be observed on May 30th.

It is said May 30th was chosen because flowers are often in bloom across the United States and would be used to decorate the burial places of Union soldiers.

Following the proclamation, many towns and cities began holding their own memorial observations for their hometown heroes. By the early 1900’s, “Decoration Day” had become referenced among many as “Memorial Day” to include those who died in war or military action following the aftermath of World War I. Consequently, after World War II, “Memorial Day” became more common and was officially recognized in 1967 under Federal Law.

In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Holiday Bill, moving Memorial Day from May 30th to the last Monday in May of every year, which extended the holiday over a three-day weekend. Thus, we came to recognize Memorial Day as the start of the American summer season and the common traditions and freedoms that follow.

While I sincerely wish you all a wonderful beginning to your summer season with family and friends, I do hope you will take time to reflect this Memorial Day weekend on WHY we are able to celebrate this holiday peacefully!

Finally, if you ever see a Gold Star Mom, a Gold Star Spouse, or a Gold Star Family member—please say THANK YOU! I guarantee it means the world to these survivors.

Have a safe and pleasant Memorial Day weekend, and let’s see those great American flags!

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Anthony Hernandez

Anthony Hernandez

Anthony Hernandez is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Defense Credit Union Council (DCUC).  He joined DCUC as its Chief Operating Officer in August 2016 and was selected ... Web: Details