- A time of remembering and to honor loved ones
- A day off from work
- The time to be with family over a barbecue
The weather is usually warm, as it is right before the summer heat. Some families visit grave sites with flowers for their lost loved ones. This time and these moments invite our stories and make us think about preserving our family legacies, some who had died in war or in service while safeguarding America.
FAST FACTS OF THE HISTORY OF MEMORIAL DAY :
The practice of a day of memorial started in ancient times, long before America.
Way back in 431 B.C., soldiers killed in the Peloponnesian War were honored with a public funeral and speech given by Greek statesman Pericles. It was likely the first communal ceremony of recognizing those who had given their life in war. Year after year, ancient Greeks and Romans hosted similar commemorations.
Early memorial celebrations in the United States….
One of the first “Memorial Day” celebrations in the United States was by newly freed slaves. On May 1, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina, following the end of the Civil War, members of the U.S. Colored Troops and others honored the dead with flowers, prayers, and honorary moments of silence.
By the late 1860s, many Americans had begun hosting tributes to the war’s fallen soldiers by decorating their graves with flowers and flags. States and organizations stepped up in action to pause and remember those gone. In 1886, the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia resolved to commemorate the fallen once a year. This day of memorial became commonly known as “Decoration Day.”
The Poppy Flower
In the spring of 1915, a Georgia teacher and volunteer war worker, Moina Michael began a campaign to make the poppy a symbol of tribute to all who died in war. Her action was in response to bright red flowers (poppies) being planted in the ravaged lands of France, war-torn by The Great War (WWI). The poppy remains a symbol of remembrance to this day.
The day of memorial becomes Memorial Day.
Later, in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. At first, it was but a three-day weekend for federal employees to pause in their work and honor those who died in war. Three years later, in 1971, Memorial Day became a federal holiday for everyone in America.
*Historical facts above, in part, were retrieved 5/27/2019 from History Channel, online.
As we gather with family and loved ones this Memorial Day, let’s regard our family legacies with sweet remembrance and a moment of honor, carrying their stories through our generations to come. If we don’t tell our story and the story of our ancestors–and our own story–who will?
My father, Robert Wells (1943-2015) served a two-year tour in the Navy during the Vietnam War. If only I could remember him, however I am honored he fought for America.
I remember my maternal great-grandmother, Marie (1904-1987). My current writing project, a biography of Marie, involves research in archived newspapers which documented her achievements. Marie was an active participant in the American Legion Auxiliary. Her membership began in the 1940s and she served as Chapter President for her local community and later as District President for her greater area.
As the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, this auxiliary has many committees which voluntarily serve to help war veterans. One is the Red Poppy Committee. Only today, in preparing for this blog post, did I come to understand the correlation between my research discoveries of her and why poppies are a symbol for this national holiday.
What is there for you to learn about your family legacies? For those who have read my debut book, Out of Chaos: A Memoir, you may remember my maternal great-grandmother, Marie, or Nana as I called her. When I was young, I struggled to live up to her standards, and am now, through my research coming to a better understanding of who Marie was.
There are many ways to keep your family memories alive, not limited to writing a biography as I am. I have a friend (his name is Andrew,) who, often writes a letter about his remembered loved ones, and passes it on to his many friends—I get his postmarked letters in my mailbox.
Please share in the comments how you can carry their stories forward to future generations.
American Legion Auxiliary at
History Channel, online at https://www.history.com/news/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-memorial-day
Moina Michael, American Humanitarian at http://www.greatwar.co.uk/people/moina-belle-michael-biography.htm
Robert Wells, my father, U.S.N.R. 1969.
Marie, my maternal great-grandmother and Past President of American Legion Auxiliary, District 3. http://ellemottauthor.com/index.php/dedications/
Have a safe and Happy Memorial Day weekend. I hope you carry these above thoughts into your days following our holiday. -Elle-
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