Monday, May 31, 2010

American Girls And American Guys

Will always stand up and salute.
We'll always recognize, when we see ol' glory flying,
There's a lot of men dead,
So we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our heads.

Today, the last Monday in May, is Memorial Day in the United States. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died serving our country. A lot of people think of it as a day off work or an excuse to have a party. Some think of the bargains they may find at their favorite store. But there is a lot more to Memorial Day than all that.

History says on May 5, 1868, Memorial Day was officially declared by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. He set it to be observed May 30th when the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers were to be decorated at Arlington National Cemetery. It was originally called Decoration Day. It is a day of remembrance for those who have died serving America.

In 1966, President Johnson declared Waterloo, New York the birthplace of Memorial Day. He did this because New York was the first state to officially recognize the holiday in 1873. States in the South refused to acknowledge the holiday until after World War I because until that point the holiday honored only those who fought and died in the Civil War. It is believed the date was originally chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

Congress put into law that the holiday would be celebrated on the last Monday in May in 1971. Monday was chosen for many federal holidays. It also ensured a three-day weekend holiday.

According to the Veteran’s Administration, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance to ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a moment of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

When I was a little girl in Albuquerque I had a neighbor who was in high school. My friend and I would hide in the willow tree in my front yard and watch him come and go. We were both a bit infatuated. He was just the right age to be drafted for the Vietnam War. It wasn’t long after he graduated that he got called into duty. He died in a helicopter crash. He was only 20 years old.

One time I went to Washington DC for a work trip. My husband got to go with me. We made a trip to the Vietnam Wall. I looked up my neighbor’s name. It still made me sad that he had died so young. But it made me proud that he took the challenge and defended my right to be free.

Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day especially for honoring and remembering military personnel who gave their lives in the service of their country. Veterans Day is a day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. We should be thankful every day.

My nephew is currently in Afghanistan. We pray daily for his safety. His brother, just graduated from college, has joined the reserves. He will leave in a few weeks for Basic Combat Training and after graduating from that moves to Officer Candidate School. He should graduate there around the first of December. Then he will probably have to go too. We are very proud of them both.

I’ve finished two full months of knitayear. On day 60 I chose a pale hand painted cotton yarn. The colors are peaceful and I was in a reflective mood. They were calming colors that suited my reminiscing. I was glad to be there with the boys and to have seen my good friend. Day 61 was Memorial Day. I picked a brown camouflage yarn. I’m thankful for the men and women who have served our country. They deserve to be honored because they gave the biggest gift there is, for us to be free.

Hey, Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list,
And the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist.
And the eagle will fly and it's gonna be hell,
When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell.
And it'll feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you.
Ah, brought to you, courtesy of the red, white and blue.

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