Rituals of Gratitude Mark True Meaning of Memorial Day

Many may think of Memorial Day as the time to buy a new refrigerator or fire up the grill for the kick-off of summer, but it is also a solemn holiday that celebrates those who died during their military service.

Memorial Day was once called Decoration Day and founded after the Civil War. Some Decoration Day activities still persist in Southern states, like cleaning and decorating grave sites with flowers.

Many people confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day. While Veterans Day is set aside to remember all those who served honorably in the military, Memorial Day honors military personnel who died in service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.

While Memorial Day is always the last Monday in May, Veterans Day is always Nov. 11, originally called Armistice Day, marking the end of World War 1. Over the years, both holidays eventually were given fixed dates.

Some of the traditions of honoring fallen service members on Memorial Day include:

Wearing poppies. Inspired by the poem, Flanders Field, poppies are worn in the U.S. to commemorate Memorial Day (not Veteran’s Day). Though we Americans may wear them in May, millions of people in Canada, France, Belgium, Australia and New Zealand, wear their poppies on Nov. 11.

National Moment of Remembrance: Since the year 2000 when President Clinton signed a bill into law, Americans are asked to pause for a minute at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day to remember those who died in military service to the U.S.

Baseball games pause and Amtrak whistles cease at that moment.

Flags at half staff: Flags are flown at half staff from dawn until noon on Memorial Day, then raised briskly until sundown.

Taps Across America: Buglers across the world play taps to honor the war dead on Memorial Day.

More ways to celebrate Memorial Day

The National Parks Foundation offers 10 ways to honor Memorial Day including visiting battlefields and cemeteries. The USO also gathered 10 socially-distanced ways to honor the fallen and Next Avenue offers 6 more tips for observing Memorial Day.

Here are just some of the West Coast events to remember the service members who gave their lives for our country:

Portland: Memorial Day Mass; Veterans for Peace event

Wilsonville, Ore.: Virtual Oregon Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs Ceremony

Oregon City, Ore.: Memorial Day Commemoration

Seattle: Garden of Remembrance at Benaroya

Lynnwood, Wash.: Virtual Memorial Ceremony

Tacoma, Wash.: Memorial Day Observance

Long Beach, Calif.: Memorial Day at the Queen Mary

San Pedro, Calif.: Memorial Day Remembrance at Battleship USS Iowa

Santa Clarita, Calif.: Memorial Day Tribute 2021

Nationwide: National Memorial Day Concert on PBS

You can find additional events by typing “Memorial Day events near me” in your favorite search engine.

Arlington National Cemetery and other national cemeteries around the country have eased some COVID restrictions to allow visitors to honor the dead on Memorial Day.

Solace is grateful to those who gave their lives to our country.

Photo by Aaron Burden

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