What began from many different quarters by decorating the graves of Confederate dead in the 1860’s has grown to an annual remembrance by the 1200 soldiers of the 3rd US Infantry decorating each of the 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery with a small US flag and then patrolling the grounds 24 hours of day during the Memorial Day weekend to make sure that each flag remains standing.
Closer to home in St. Louis, the Boy Scouts of America and the Cub Scouts place flags on the 150,000 graves at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that began in 1951 and continues to this day.
While many towns and cities pay tribute each year with speeches, parades, and fireworks, for many the “Memorial” in Memorial Day has been either ignored or forgotten. We are the beneficiaries of the sacrifices made by the soldiers, sailors, and airmen of yesterday and today.
Last year, I remember hearing on the radio a former Green Beret say that warriors exist to protect women and children – what a simple, yet significant statement. For those who do not come back from their mission, we cannot forget the charge mentioned by General John Logan in his General Order No. 11 on May 5th, 1868:
...gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime...let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us as sacred charges upon the Nation's gratitude, - the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.
- By visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
- By visiting memorials.
- By flying the US Flag at half-staff until noon.
- By flying the “POW/MIA Flag (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act).
- By participating in a "National Moment of Remembrance": at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played.
- By renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our fallen dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.
On this Memorial Day, let us not forget, as Moina Michael writes in reply to John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies