Remembering Memorial Day

Half-StaffTraditionally, Memorial Day has been a time in our nation’s history for remembering and honoring those who have given their lives in the service of their country. However, either by design or by happenstance (it depends upon whom you believe), the true meaning of the day has largely been lost, only to be replaced by one that is more directly tied to profits rather than patriotism. Memorial Day sales proliferate much like weeds in an unkempt yard.

According to some sources, Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, but it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day.  It’s history dates back to Civil War days, and it was initially recognized as Decoration Day, because of the practice of decorating the graves of deceased soldiers with flowers.  At some point, the name was changed to Memorial Day.  As a youngster, the former was the only name by which I knew it.  Probably because my dad was a member of the American Legion, I mostly remember it as the day on which artificial poppies were offered in return for donations (mostly coins) that people deposited in little round canisters.  The vets would walk up and down the block at intersections, shaking the cans and collecting money.  The origin of this practice goes back to 1915.

poppy“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. When she returned to France she 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.” (1)

With each passing year, the meaning of Memorial Day seems to grow less and less significant—much like our nation itself, which has been diminished on the world stage.  We can only hope that the trend will be reversed before it’s too late.

Please join with me this Monday to pause and consider the true meaning of Memorial Day. Say “Thank you for your service” to those servicemen you encounter, not just on Memorial Day, but every day of the year, and pay respect to those who have died in the service of our country by displaying the American flag at half staff on this solemn day.  It is the least we can do.  



About AuthorJoePerroneJr

I am a former professional fly-fishing guide, and I write the Matt Davis Mystery Series, which presently consists of five books: As the Twig is Bent, Opening Day, Twice Bitten, Broken Promises and Deadly Ransom. The series is set in the real town of Roscoe, NY, in the Catskill Mountains, where I guided for ten years. I love fly fishing, movies, cooking (and eating), and music. To learn more about me and my writing, please visit my website at:
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9 Responses to Remembering Memorial Day

  1. Joe, Don’t stop with this one. Cover other historically significant days in the same fashion. Your logic applies to holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Allie P. says:

    I don’t shop on Memorial day unless I absolutely have to. Instead, I spend the day with my family, and while we may enjoy a few hours by the pool or barbecue (whichever takes our fancy), I never forget the reason I am free to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. balroop2013 says:

    Hi Joe,
    I liked this post as it propelled me to read further, also because it pays a profound homage to all the soldiers in the most patriotic way…those red and blue colors with white background are looking just right for this post. Thanks for the creative awakening and that poppy poetry.

    I agree that Memorial day has degenerated into just another holiday meant for enjoyment…most people plan a weekend vacation while the commercial establishments are busy making their own profits!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I guess we will always have wars, but we could do a lot better job of taking care of our vets and respecting their families. I’d like to see Memorial Day declared a commerce-free day, aside from essential services such as food and gasoline. There could be a one-day moratorium on bridge and tunnel tolls, admission charges to national parks, and so forth. I know it’s a pipe dream, but there ought to be some way of impressing the citizens of our nation with just how important a role those who’ve died played in helping to retain our freedoms. Call me crazy . . . 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dick Fuller says:

    Amen. Amen. A debt we can never repay. We need to honor those who fought and died for our freedom.
    I am on my outside to raise our flag and pray for our country as I do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re a good man, Dick. I lost three high school classmates in Vietnam, and I’ve always felt guilty about not having had to go (medical). I, too, pray for our country. I think this election cycle is our last chance to save it.


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