There are some basic facts to know about Memorial Day if you don’t want to sound like a fool. Too many Americans think it’s simply a Monday in late May to enjoy a day off work, grill burgers, and drink a beer with friends. Your observation of the day may include those things, but it’s meant to be much more. So here’s what you should know.
Basic learnin’ about Memorial Day
Memorial Day – originally called Decoration Day – is a day to remember those who died in service to the United States of America. (Knuckleheads confuse it with Veteran’s Day, which is on November 11, and honors those who served our country but are still very much alive.)Knuckleheads confuse it (Memorial Day) with Veteran’s Day, which is on November 11. Click To Tweet
It was established in 1868 to honor the Civil War dead and to be observed on May 30th – as this date coincided with no particular battle anniversary. However, as time passed, it was expanded to recognize the fallen from every war and moved to the last Monday in May.
Memorial Day is a Federal holiday which means government offices, schools & banks, and many businesses are closed. Restaurants are open. And retail stores are sure to be promoting a sale with red, white, and blue.
Flags are to be flown at half-staff from daybreak until noon. After noon, they are raised to full-staff to signify the sacrifice of the fallen was not in vain. At 3 pm local time, everyone is to observe a moment of silence or listen to taps.
Each family of a fallen soldier is to visit the cemetery and decorate their headstone to demonstrate their remembrance and appreciation.
Why do I see money left on certain headstones in the cemetery?
Vietnam Veterans started the custom of leaving coins on the headstones of fellow servicemen. The coins represent the visitor’s association with the deceased.
A penny left means the grave was visited and the visitor may or may not have known the deceased. A nickel indicates the visitor and the deceased were at boot camp together. A dime means the visitor and deceased served together for a time in some capacity. And a quarter left on a headstone indicates the visitor was actually present when the serviceman sustained his fatal injury.
National and state veteran’s cemeteries collect the coins and use them for maintenance and upkeep of the cemetery. Never help yourself to it thinking “finders keepers.”
Why do old men sell red paper flowers at Wal-Mart?
In 1915 at a battlefront in Belgium, Lt. Col. John McCrae wrote a soon-to-be-famous poem entitled In Flanders’ Fields. In response to this poem, Moina Michael came up with the idea to sell red poppies on Memorial Day to support servicemen in need. In 1922, the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) took up the cause and began selling the paper poppies that are still sold today. Buy them and wear them.