By JIM PERRY, Publisher
Gainesville Daily Register
What a terrific day to enjoy a trip to the lake. I hope you will spend time with your family and friends to cook out, grill a burger, go for a swim or a drive and enjoy your day off. At the end of the school year this is a wonderful time to take a breath and get ready for summer.
Enjoy this long weekend any way you can, and while you’re at it, let’s not forget those who gave meaning to this national holiday.
On Monday we're celebrating Decoration Day, as it was originally called. It is the day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868, by General John Logan. He was the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. In his General Order No. 11, Decoration Day was proclaimed 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 when all states began to acknowledge this day for remembering their war dead.
Of course, there are other versions about how Memorial Day first came to be. It is not that important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation. it is about coming together to honor those who sacrificed everything for our freedom.
Then there are the paper poppies. That time honored tradition carried forward by the Veterans of Foreign Wars was originally inspired by a poem written in 1915 by Col. John McRae entitled "In Flanders Fields."
McRae, a Canadian medic, wrote of the blowing red fields among the battleground of the fallen. McRae was not the only soldier to compare the red poppy field to the battlefield.
After European newspapers published the McRae poem memorializing the war dead, an American teacher in Athens, Georgia, was inspired to wear a poppy and write her own poem. Moina Michael was reportedly the first to have the idea to sell artificial poppies as a symbol of remembrance. Here is what she wrote:
"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."
When denied the opportunity to serve overseas herself, she sold poppies to her friends and co-workers at the YMCA to raise money to benefit servicemen in need. Of course, the tradition was carried forward by the VFW and still lives today as a symbol of Memorial Day.
Many gave their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we so often take for granted today. As you celebrate your holiday this weekend, take a moment to remember. Not just the price of hot dogs or the price of gasoline; consider the price of freedom. We owe a huge debt to those who currently overseas fighting for our freedom.
Please let them know you care.