Memorial Day


As the month of April wound down and we put another Golf Tournament and Sacramento Legislative Day behind us, the month of May is a great follow-up that puts politics aside and offers a time of celebration.

May is the last full month of classes for grade school and most college students, prompting eagerness and excitement for their upcoming summer freedom. It also is a time for families to honor the person who literally brought them into this world as we celebrate Mother’s Day.

On another note, because of Memorial Day, May is a month that can bring feelings of heartbreak and sadness for some. But it also shows our unbridled patriotism by honoring the source of the liberties and freedoms we are entitled to just for being Americans — our countrymen and women who have laid down their lives and paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

Even though my father made it back from Vietnam, many of his friends did not, so in that way, May is a month I get to honor both my mother and father each year (as we probably should each day), and I dedicate this month’s article to my father, introduced below by a journalist from a West Michigan newspaper article from 1969, and those who served alongside him who did not make it back home:

“Marine L. Cpl. Larry W. Pollack [Sr.], serving with the First Marine Aircraft Wing in Vietnam. In addition to attacking enemy personnel and installations, wing aircraft airlift troops to battle zones, evacuate wounded, fly resupply missions, and provide close air support for U.S. Marines and allied ground forces engaged in combat operations.”

As you head to the grill and cooler this Memorial Day, celebrating our freedom with your friends and family, you can share some less known Memorial Day facts that I have gathered from multiple sources:

  • Memorial Day is sometimes confused with Veterans Day. However, Veterans Day honors all United States military veterans, while Memorial Day honors the soldiers who died while serving.
  • The Grand Army of the Republic was created by the Union Army to honor their dead. After World War I the American Legion took over their duties.
  • Congress passed a law in 2000 that requires all Americans to stop what they are doing at 3pm on Memorial Day to remember and to honor those who have died serving the United States. President Clinton signed this action.
  • The flag is supposed to be flown at half-mast until noon, and then raised to full mast until sunset on Memorial Day.
  • The tradition of wearing red poppies on Memorial Day originated from John McCrae’s 1915 poem In Flanders Fields. In Canada they wear red poppies to honor their soldiers on Remembrance Day in November each year.
  • Although not as popular today, one tradition was to eat a picnic meal while sitting on the ground at a cemetery. There are still some people in the rural areas of the South that continue to practice this tradition.
  • It’s common for volunteers to place the American flag on graves in the national cemeteries, and is also a popular day for people to visit cemeteries to honor those who have died while serving.
  • It’s estimated that approximately 32 million people travel by car over Memorial Day weekend.
  • Memorial Day marks the beginning of the summer vacation season while Labor Day marks the end.
  • In some areas of the rural South, they hold annual Decoration Days around this time for certain cemeteries, often in the mountains.
  • In 1966, President Johnson named Waterloo, New York, as the original place of Memorial Day.
  • There were more American lives lost during the Civil War than the two World Wars combined. Approximately 620,000 died during the Civil War while approximately 116,516 died in World War I and approximately 405,399 died in World War II.
  • There are more than 300,000 fallen soldiers buried at Arlington Cemetery. On average, there are 28 burials there each day.

Be safe and enjoy your Memorial Day holiday, but remember the many fallen servicemembers who gave their lives for your freedom.

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