Officially, the first day of the 2015 summer is June 21st, (which is also Father's Day) but most everyone views Memorial Day weekend as the unofficial kickoff to the season. Whether its spending time on the lake, firing up grills and smokers, spending time with friends and family, visiting a cemetery, or simply enjoying a day off from work, most everyone celebrates or observes Memorial Day in one form or another.
Unfortunately, most folks really don't know the true purpose for this holiday, although a large majority still hold high respect for it. You or someone in your family probably buy some sort of bouquet or flower arrangement to place on a grave of a lost loved one, and that's certainly a very respectful and honorable act, however, that wasn't the reason that Memorial Day was first observed.
Don't misunderstand me, in no way am I trying to discourage anyone from decorating a grave on Memorial Day, or any other day, because that's a beautiful thing... it's just important to know why we celebrate the occasion.
After the Civil War, "Decoration Day" was declared in 1868 for the purpose of decorating graves of soldiers who were killed in battle, which name was changed to "Memorial Day" in 1882. It wasn't observed as a federal holiday until 1967 with the original purpose still remaining the focus, which was to honor all men and women who died in battle while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
In the old days, as families traveled to cemeteries to decorate the graves of their fallen soldiers, they also brought picnic style foods and had "dinner on the ground" since most all families were assembled together in the same place. From there, folks started decorating the graves of all loved ones, ones who weren't veterans, and then others just had a meal, and then somewhere along the way, many forgot about all the above and observe the holiday for nothing more than cookouts and parties.
If you see an American flag at half-staff today, (one on a flagpole, not a small one people hang from a porch) the United States Flag Code (written rules for displaying and caring for the flag) says that on Memorial Day, one should raise the flag to the top of the pole, lower it to half-staff where it should remain until noon, then return to full staff.
Below are photos from this morning's Memorial Day Ceremony held at the Community Center.
Is the holiday for visiting cemeteries, cookouts, lazy days, and friends and family? Sure it is, and we hope you enjoy your Memorial Day however you see fit, as there are certainly many ways to do so. But please take a moment to reflect on the fact that countless men and women fought and died to give you the right, and to protect that right to do so. Happy Memorial Day, everyone!
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