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Memorial Day: A Solemn Day to Remember

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I know you are reading this post probably getting ready for a relaxing afternoon or a day on the river to celebrate Memorial Day. 

Did you know that Memorial Day is considered to be the most solemn American holiday? Solemn is probably not the first word that comes to mind when you picture your plans for today. The reason we celebrate Memorial Day is to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice (for us) while defending our nation. We are experiencing freedom unlike any other country in the world. Because of courage. Because of sacrifice. And most of us probably never think twice about it.

Unfortunately the significance of  this solemn day of remembrance is falling through the cracks of barbecues, boat rides, and beer. Here’s a bit of info from History.com regarding this very important holiday:

Memorial Day, an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honors men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Initially known as Decoration Day and celebrated on May 30, it originated in the years following the Civil War. The Civil War was America’s bloodiest battle with the loss of over 600,000 soldiers. By the late 1860s Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers, decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers. Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date originally selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968 Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

And did you know that each year on Memorial Day, a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00pm local time?

My hope for today is that you will take the time to reflect on the reason you have a day off from work. Be intentional about sharing the importance of this very special national holiday with your children. Take them to a meaningful ceremony. In the past, our family has attended the Rock Island National Cemetery Memorial Day Ceremony at the Arsenal. 

Military.com has some great ideas on how to explain the significance and celebrate this holiday with your children:

  • Visit a local Veteran’s cemetery. Almost every community has some sort of a war memorial.
  • Take cookies, books, or movies to a nearby Veteran’s hospital.
  • This link provides kids an online scavenger hunt that helps them learn about the history of Memorial Day.
  • Teach your children about medals of honor. You can print a Medal of Honor coloring book and learn the history behind our brave Soldiers.
  • Watch a movie and learn some history about famous battles of the past. The History Channel and The Military Channel have many shows that might fit this bill.
  • Visit enchantedlearning.com and find coloring pages, craft projects, word searches, quizzes and more to celebrate this solemn holiday.
  • Taste of Home has some great Memorial Day recipes for the holiday.
  • Have your children create a card or picture to be sent overseas to a soldier currently deployed.

And at 3:00 pm Monday, please take a moment to remember our fallen soldiers. Say a prayer. Have a moment of silence. Weep. And be grateful.

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