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2017-05-25

Honoring our Veterans on Memorial Day

Contributed

For nearly 150 years, Americans have gathered in late spring to honor the sacrifice of those who have given their lives in service to their country. What began as “Decoration Day” with dozens of informal commemorations of those killed in the Civil War has grown to become one of the nation’s most solemn and hallowed holidays.
In May 1868, General John A. Logan, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group known as the Grand Army of the Republic, issued a decree that May 30 should become a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than 620,000 soldiers killed (both North and South) in the recently ended Civil War. On Decoration Day, as Logan dubbed it, Americans should lay flowers and decorate the graves of the war dead “whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” According to legend, Logan chose May 30 because it was a rare day that didn’t fall on the anniversary of a Civil War battle, though some historians believe the date was selected to ensure that flowers across the country would be in full bloom.
Americans embraced the notion of “Decoration Day” immediately. That first year, more than 27 states held some sort of ceremony, with more than 5,000 people in attendance at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. By 1890, every former state of the Union had adopted it as an official holiday. However, several Southern States officially celebrated an additional, separate day for honoring the Confederate War dead.
For more than 50 years, the holiday was used to commemorate only those killed in the Civil War, and not casualties of any other American conflict. It wasn’t until America entered World War I that the tradition began to recognize those killed in all wars. Memorial Day was not officially recognized nationwide until the 1970s, when America was deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War. In 1971, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and established that Memorial Day would be celebrated on the last Monday of May.
The Bandera American Legion Post 157 will be placing flags on the graves of Veterans at the Bandera Cemetery on Saturday, May 26, 2017, at 9 am, followed by placement at the St. Stanislaus cemeteries. Everyone is welcome to join in honoring our fallen service members.
The Bandera American Legion Auxiliary Unit 157 will distribute bright red poppies on the courthouse lawn and all along the parade route May 27. (Look for the ladies wearing poppy-red shirts.)
The Flanders Field poppy is an internationally recognized symbol of the lives sacrificed in war and the hope that none died in vain.
In the battlefields of Belgium during World War I, poppies grew wild amid the ravages of war. The overturned soils of battle covered the poppy seeds, and the red flowers flourished. Since then, they serve as a reminder of the bloodshed of war.
The poppy also honors hospitalized and disabled veterans who craft poppies out of red crepe paper. This therapeutic activity provides a financial benefit for many veterans and their families through monetary donations.
American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) members have dedicated themselves for nearly a century to meeting the needs of our nation’s veterans, military, and their families both here and abroad. They volunteer millions of hours yearly, with a value averaging $2 billion each year. As part of the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, ALA volunteers across the country also step up to honor veterans and military through annual scholarships and with ALA Girls State programs, teaching high school juniors to be leaders grounded in patriotism and Americanism.
To learn more about the ALA’s mission or to volunteer, donate or join, visit www.ALAfor Veterans.org.