This week, many Barry Countians will enjoy their first three-day weekend in months. Memorial Day weekend is a long awaited break that falls four months after the winter holidays conclude. Area residents will celebrate the weekend with barbecues, swimming, picnics at the lake and other family gatherings. Whether you combine Memorial Day with a week-long vacation or simply enjoy an extra day away from work, the holiday is a much needed break.
Memorial Day is more than a day off work though. Also known as Decoration Day, the holiday was founded as a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. According to USA.gov, Memorial Day began three years after the Civil War, when Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared Decoration Day should be observed as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. It is believed the date, May 30, was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country. The first large observance of Decoration Day was held at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant presided over the ceremonies, which included speeches, prayers and hymns. Children from the Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphan Home and members of the Grand Army of the Republic placed flowers and small American flags on both Union and Confederate graves during the event. Around 5,000 people attended the ceremony.
In December of 2000, the United States Congress passed into law "the National Moment of Remembrance Act creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission's charter is to "encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country" in commemoration of Memorial Day. The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.
The poem below was written by United States Army Specialist Roger J. Robicheau. I hope the poem gives each one of our readers something to pause and think about this Memorial Day.
What Heroes Gave
Each donned their uniform to be
Defenders of our liberty
Their mission sure, their spirits bright
Guard freedom's home, be brave to fight
One final day each faced their call
Each gave their best enduring all
We'll never know what they went through
But know they loved this country true
Deep down inside we should all feel
What heroes gave, their cost so real
We must stay thankful, grateful of
The gift of freedom through their love
Their loved ones bore the gravest pain
What we can't know, some now sustain
To God I pray their pain will cease
And each will find long-lasting peace
Remember this from year to year
What heroes gave -- shan't disappear
We'll never let their special day
Their time for honor slip away
These brave fought for a nation free
If not for them, where would we be?