A few Simple Ways to Put the Memorial into Memorial Day

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For many, Memorial Day weekend is viewed fondly as the beginning of the season where relaxation, sun, and outdoor activities abound. And for many, amidst the flurry of fun and retail sales, it can be difficult to keep in mind why we’re granted this precious time away from the daily grind: to remember those who have lost their lives to preserve our freedom. Below are some simple suggestions to remember and recognize the purpose of Memorial Day.

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Chat about its history as Decoration Day.

After the conclusion of the Civil War, local communities across the country dedicated time in the Spring to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in battle by decorating their graves with flowers. While cities in both the north and south claim that their community efforts were the first of their kind, the first large-scale tribute began with Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, who declared May 30, 1868, to be the first official Decoration Day. His General Order No. 11 stated that the date “is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

More than 100 years later, Congress passed the National Holiday Act of 1971, which declared Memorial Day to be the last Monday in May, on which Americans honor those who have died in all American wars.

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Wear a red poppy.

In May 1915, while in the midst of World War I, then Major John McCrae, a Canadian military doctor and artillery commander, wrote “In Flanders Fields,” a poem inspired by his fallen comrade, and one that will give you goosebumps. In response, Moina Michael, a professor and an incredible voice for fallen heroes, wrote “We Shall Keep Faith,” in which she pledges to maintain faith and ensure that the lives lost in battle had not been in vain. Her last stanza reads: “And now the Torch and Poppy Red; We wear in honor of our dead. Fear not that ye have died for naught; We’ll teach the lesson that we wrought; In Flanders Fields.” That’s one heck of an endorsement for a memorial flower.

Moina Michael also realized the efforts necessary to assist our returning WWI veterans, and began a campaign to make the red poppy an official symbol of remembrance. Her efforts created not just a beautiful tradition to remember our fallen heroes, but also a widely recognized symbol used to acknowledge and benefit our veterans.

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#GoSilent at 9:01 a.m. PST

Take the pledge to #GoSilent: This Memorial Day, IAVA will lay a wreath before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery at 12:01 EDT. The moment of silence will coincide with events across the country, including New York and Washington, D.C. Gather your friends and family across the country and pause with us for a national moment of silence to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

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Lower your flag to half-mast until noon, and then raise it until sunset.

In 1924, Congress codified the tradition to lower the flag to half-staff until noon on Memorial Day to honor lives lost in service. At noon, the flag is to be raised to symbolize America’s persistence and to honor those who are still with us.

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Recognize the National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 p.m.

In 2000, Congress passed and President Bush signed into law the U.S. National Moment of Remembrance Act. The law’s purpose was to encourage all Americans, wherever they are and whatever they’re doing, to pause at 3:00 p.m. in their local time for one minute of silence. The moment allows the entire nation to act collectively to remember and honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our way of life.

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Pledge some miles to the wear blue: run to remember Memorial Day run/walk.

Each Memorial Day, wear blue: run to remember encourages runners and walkers across the nation to commit to run or walk miles in honor of fallen service members. Whether you can commit 1 mile or 100, you can join one of their local chapters or planned meet ups, or simply commit to participate wherever you might be. When you register on the website here, you’ll be given the name of a fallen service member to honor with your steps.

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Attend a local service.

And, last but not least, if you’re local, there are multiple opportunities to attend ceremonies in the area. The Pierce County Veterans Advisory Council is sponsoring a remembrance and celebration on Monday at 2:00 p.m. near the Joint Services Memorial in the Garden of Honor at Mountain View Funeral Home and Memorial Park, 4100 Steilacoom Blvd. SW, Lakewood, WA. Wreaths will be laid to honor our service members, local Junior ROTC groups will raise service flags, an honor guard and firing detail from JBLM will be present along with live music from the Brass Quintet of the 56th Army Band. Free food and refreshments will also be provided to the public. More information can be found at www.mountainviewtacoma.com.

Joint Base Lewis McChord is also holding a Memorial Day Service at 11:30 a.m. on Monday at the Fort Lewis Cemetery. Information can be found on page 5 of the JBLM MWR FOCUS Magazine.

In addition, a Memorial Day Ceremony will be held at 10:00 a.m. in the flag plaza at Mountain View Cemetery in Auburn. The Cemetery is also offering special office hours during the Memorial Day weekend to assist families. For more information, you can call 253-931-3028 or visit www.mtviewcemeteryauburn.com.