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Remembering Our Fallen Heroes

American_FlagA three day weekend is ahead of us and you are probably looking forward to enjoying some beautiful weather and time with family and friends.  But, while you are enjoying your freedoms, don’t forget to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

The Santa Clarita Veterans Memorial Committee is hosting a Memorial Day service at Eternal Valley Memorial Park and Mortuary on May 28 at 10 a.m.  Lt. Col. R.J. Kelly will be a speaker and there will be musical performances by the Santa Clarita Valley Concert Band and the Santa Clarita Master Chorale.


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“Most of us have been raised over the years to get to Memorial Day and have a three day holiday.  The program that we do is to remind people that there is a reason other than to just get a day off work.  It is important to remember all of our veterans from all of our wars and why we remember them.  We need to honor their memory and we need to have people realize, whether they’re grown-ups or children, that this is the reason for Memorial Day,” said Duane Harte, President of the Santa Clarita Veterans Memorial Committee.

Memorial Day originated in the years after the Civil War as fallen Union soldiers were remembered by communities in independent memorials.  On May 5, 1868, Major General John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day, a day to decorate the graves of war dead with flowers, should be observed on May 30.  The first Decoration Day was observed on May 30 of that year at Arlington National Cemetery.

According to a CNN article (to read it, click here), General Logan was the commander of an organization of Union veterans and when he issued the orders for Decoration Day, said that the day was "for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion...."  His orders expressed hope that the observance would be "kept up from year to year while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades."

Likely because of Decoration Day’s apparent partiality toward Union soldiers, many southern states refused to recognize the day and continued to honor their dead on different days.  After World War 1, Decoration Day expanded to include all fallen soldiers in American wars.  Southern states then began to participate in the day of remembrance, though many still have their own days to remember the Confederate dead.

In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day.  It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

Memorial Day traditions vary from city to city, but there are a few ways of observing fallen soldiers that extend across the nation.  In December 2000, Congress passed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act” that encourages people to stop at 3 p.m. local time for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.  Red poppies are often worn on Memorial Day; this tradition was begun in 1915 by a volunteer war worker, Moina Michael, who was inspired by John McCrea’s World War 1 poem, “In Flanders Fields,” that references the red flower.  On Memorial Day, the flag should be at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff.

Various groups organize observances, memorials, and demonstrations on Memorial Day across the country.  In 1988, Vietnam veterans rode their motorcycles to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness about Prisoner of War and Missing in Action soldiers.  In the following years, the Rolling Thunder riders have made annual demonstrations and, according to their website, will continue to do so until every soldier has been accounted for.  Another organization that will be busy Memorial Day weekend is the Patriot Guard Riders; members attend services for fallen American soldiers out of respect and to protect the families from protestors.

Whether you participate in a large memorial service, decorate the grave of a soldier, or participate in the moment of remembrance, don’t forget to remember the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country’s freedom.

Information for this article was found at the sites below.  To read more about Memorial Day, click on the following links:

http://www.history.com/topics/memorial-day-history

http://www.usmemorialday.org/backgrnd.html

http://www.va.gov/opa/speceven/memday/history.asp

http://articles.cnn.com/2009-05-25/living/mf.holiday.memorial.day_1_decoration-day-organization-of-union-veterans-wreaths-and-flags?_s=PM:LIVING

http://www.rollingthunder1.com/about.html