Editorial: Memorial Day time of reflection to honor our heroes

May. 26, 2013 @ 11:39 PM

Sevier County should be proud to host a ceremony today in recognition of Memorial Day — originally called Decoration Day. Many communities don’t do anything to remember those who gave their lives in service to this country. It’s a shame.

So many of our holidays have become little more than off-days from work, not true remembrance of the reason for the holiday. There is an 11 a.m. service at the courthouse. Plan to attend. And many cemeteries around Sevier County observed Sunday as Decoration Day, when the cemeteries are cleaned up and donations accepted for upkeep.

The Web site usmemorialday.org offers a terrific history of this national holiday. Here is some of what it has to say:

There are many stories as to Memorial Day’s actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being its birthplace. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War. Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966. It is more likely Memorial Day had many separate beginnings to honor the war dead, each contributing honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen. John Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by Gen. Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, and was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I. It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday in May to ensure a three-day weekend for federal holidays, though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead. In Tennessee it’s June 3.

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

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.

She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their Buddy Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.

Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. Let’s be sure Sevier County is not among those who have forgotten. Think about the fallen soldiers this weekend.