(Much of this is reprise from Memorial Day 2007)
You may fly your flag the entire weekend. Please fly your flag today.
Memorial Day, traditionally observed on May 30, now observed the last Monday in May, is a day to honor fallen veterans of wars. Traditionally, family members visit the cemetery where loved ones are interred and leave flowers on the grave.
On Memorial Day itself, flags on poles or masts should be flown at half-staff from sunrise to noon. At noon, flags should be raised to full-staff position.
When posting a flag at half-staff, the flag should be raised to the full-staff position first, with vigor, then slowly lowered to half-staff; when retiring a flag posted at half-staff, it should be raised to the full staff position first, with vigor, and then be slowly lowered. Some people attach black streamers to stationary flags, though this is not officially recognized by the U.S. Flag Code.
Got another week of school? Here’s a quiz about the history of Memorial Day that might make a warm-up, provided by Carolyn Abell writing in the Tifton (Georgia) Gazette:
1. Memorial Day was first officially proclaimed by a general officer. His name was: A. Robert E. Lee; B. John A. Logan; C. Douglas MacArthur D. George Washington.
2. The first state to officially recognize Memorial Day was A. Virginia; B. Rhode Island; C. New York; D. Georgia.
3. The use of poppies to commemorate Memorial Day started in A. 1870 B. 1915 C. 1948; D. 1967.
4. The original date of Memorial Day was A. May 30; B. July 4; C. May 28; D. Nov 11.
5. Which U.S. Senator has tried repeatedly to pass legislation that would restore the traditional day of Memorial Day observance? A. John McCain B. Ted Kennedy C. Saxby Chambliss D. Daniel Inouye.
The answers, again provided by the Tifton Gazette:
OK, now for the answers. General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, proclaimed May 30, 1968 as Memorial Day in his General Order Number 11, issued on May 5, 1868. The purpose was to honor the dead from both sides in the War Between the States. Subsequently flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers in Arlington National Cemetery on May 30 of that year.
New York was the first state to officially recognize the Memorial Day, in 1873. Southern states, though paying tribute to their dead on separate dates, refused to use May 30 as the official date until after World War I, when the holiday was broadened to honor those who died in any war.
In 1915 a woman named Moina Michael, inspired by the poem, “In Flanders Fields,” (by Canadian Colonel John McRae) began wearing red poppies on Memorial Day to honor our nation’s war dead. The tradition grew and even spread to other countries. In 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to sell the poppies made by disabled veterans as a national effort to raise funds in support of programs for veterans and their dependents. In 1948 the US Post Office issued a red 3-cent stamp honoring Michael for her role in founding the national poppy movement.
As stated above, May 30 was the original Memorial Day. In 1971, with the passage of the national Holiday Act, Congress changed it so that Memorial Day would be celebrated on the last Monday of May. Some citizens feel that turning it into a “three-day weekend” has devalued the importance and significance of this special holiday. In fact, every time a new Congress has convened since 1989, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii has introduced a bill to the Senate calling for the restoration of May 30th as the day to celebrate Memorial Day.
In his 1999 introductory remarks to the bill, Senator Inouye declared:
“Mr. President, in our effort to accommodate many Americans by making the last Monday in May, Memorial Day, we have lost sight of the significance of this day to our nation. Instead of using Memorial Day as a time to honor and reflect on the sacrifices made by Americans in combat, many Americans use the day as a celebration of the beginning of summer. My bill would restore Memorial Day to May 30 and authorize the flag to fly at half mast on that day.
In addition, this legislation would authorize the President to issue a proclamation designating Memorial Day and Veterans Day as days for prayer and ceremonies honoring American veterans. This legislation would help restore the recognition our veterans deserve for the sacrifices they have made on behalf of our nation.” (from the 1999 U.S. Congressional Record).
Image of flag and U.S. Capitol from Flags Bay.