What Is Memorial Day?
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Politics and Activism

What Is Memorial Day?

It indicates summer, right? Wrong.

What Is Memorial Day?
mental floss

Kids are splashing around in the pool, families gather for barbecues and beaches open for the season. Memorial Day weekend: summer is nearly here! Enjoy having fun with your loved ones, but take the time to remember why we celebrate Memorial Day. We remember and honor the men and women who died for our nation and its freedom.

"The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last tattoo;
No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And Glory guards, with solemn round,
The bivouac of the dead."
-Theodore O'Hara

Theodore O'Hara was a poet and soldier whose poem "Bivouac Of The Dead" can be found inscribed on platforms throughout many national cemeteries. The poem was inspired by the Mexican War of 1846-48 and the Civil War (1861-65). Sometimes, verses of the poem can be found without being credited to O'Hara because he fought on the Confederate side of the Civil War, and it was found inappropriate to name him among Union dead. However, the poem became so popular that people took it upon themselves to find the source of the poem.

In honor of the lives that were sacrificed and lost, many Americans visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day. Volunteers also place American flags on each grave site at national cemeteries. At 3 p.m. every Memorial Day, a national moment of remembrance takes place.

Families remember their children, parents, siblings, friends, uncles, aunts and neighbors who have lost their lives at war. In my family, we honor a loved one as well.

"Have you heard of a ship called the good Reuben James
Manned by hard fighting men both of honor and fame?
She flew the Stars and Stripes of the land of the free
But tonight she's in her grave on the bottom of the sea
Tell me what were their names, tell me what were their names
Did you have a friend on the good Reuben James?" -Woody Guthrie

Not a friend, but a great-uncle, and his name was Joseph Peter Biehl of the U.S. Navy.

America officially entered WWII after Japan bombed the American fleet in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. However, for the men aboard the USS Reuben James, it started before that. The Reuben James was part of the Neutrality Patrol and she guarded the Atlantic coast of America. In 1941, before America entered the war, she joined the convoy escort force to escort war material to Great Britain. On October 31, she was torpedoed near Iceland and sunk. She was the first American ship to sink because of WWII actions. Only 44 out of 160 men survived.

My grandfather lost his brother that day. My great-grandmother, Janet, was the first Gold Star Mother in Philadelphia prior to WWII because she lost her son. After the loss of their brother, my grandfather and his brothers withdrew from high school and enlisted in the Navy in honor of their brother. My great-grandmother then became the first triple Blue Star Mother, having three sons in the war at the same time.

My grandfather and my great-uncles are very admirable. My family continues to honor and remember our Uncle Joe.

It is so important to share stories like this with one another because it makes the assumptions of war a reality for those of us who lack the experiences our military has encountered. So continue to support our active servicemen, servicewomen and veterans. Remember and honor our friends and family who lost their lives at war for us and our freedom.

Happy Memorial Day!

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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