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Formerly known as "Decoration Day," Memorial Day in the United States, is the last Monday in the month of May. Memorial Day is designated to honor those who have died in our Nation’s wars. Memorial Day finds its origins during the American Civil War when people placed flowers on the graves of those who had died in battle.

While the original birthplace of Memorial Day is unknown, more than a half dozen cities have claimed to be the birthplace of this holiday, it was not until 1966 when a Congressional Memorial Day Proclamation was issued, recognizing Waterloo, New York, as the birthplace of Memorial Day, and that the first official day of observance for Memorial Day took place in 1866.

After World War I, as the day came to be observed in honor of those who had died in all U.S. Wars, the name was changed from "Decoration Day" to what is now known as "Memorial Day." Since 1971, Memorial Day has been observed on the last Monday in the month of May.

Memorial Day is observed with the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Memorial Day is also recognized by religious services, parades, speeches and veteran organizations nationwide. Flags, insignia, and flowers are placed on the graves of veterans in local cemeteries. In addition, the Red Poppy Flower is recognized as the official symbol of Memorial Day.

There are many theories as to why the Red Poppy Flower became the recognized emblem for Memorial Day. The 2 most likely reasons the Red Poppy Flower is the awareness symbol is due to the color of Red Poppy flower. When in bloom across fields, the Red Poppy Flower metaphorically represents the blood shed by millions of military service members, who lost their life on the battlefield. In addition, the personal experience of a Brigade General who had penned his battlefield observations, is seemingly the second reason the Rep Poppy was chosen to symbolize Memorial Day. The Brigade General wrote his observations of the bright Red Poppy Flowers growing, and how despite the devastation of war leaving battlefields destroyed and baron, the Red Poppy flower found a way to grow.

According to a report by the History Channel, in the spring of 1915, just after a battle that resulted in the deaths of 87,000 allied soldiers, Brigade Surgeon General, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, assigned to an Allied Artillery Unit in Belgium, noticed the bright red poppy flowers blooming in Flanders Field. Full of grief, he was moved by the sight, and wrote a poem from the perspective of those who died on the battlefield. Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae coined the poem: "In Flanders Field." the beginning of the poem highlights the presence of the red poppy flowers, and the closing line of the poem is: "We shall not sleep, though poppies grow, In Flanders fields."

The poem was then published in Punch magazine later that year. The poem "In Flanders Fields" will become one of the most famous works to emerge from the First World War and is often recited at thousands of military memorials. Subsequently, the red poppy flower became the U.S. national emblem of remembrance and officially designated as such on September 27, 1920. Below is the poem "In Flanders Fields"

"In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row

That mark our place, and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch: be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.

Regardless of the birthplace of Memorial Day, and how the Red Poppy Flower became the symbol for this holiday, the purpose of Memorial Day is to recognize and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and died in battle. To our fallen Brothers and Sisters from generations ago and to the present, you are not forgotten, and we honor your sacrifice!

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