Happy Memorial Day?
By J. Zelinski
Happy Memorial Day? If you find yourself uttering this phrase, it may be a good time to reflect on what was just said. Although this oxymoron has become normalized throughout the years, the meaning of this sacred day seems to have been overshadowed by television commercials and the gratifying feeling of an extra vacation day. Who doesn’t appreciate a long weekend paired with summer time festivities? Our first reminder that this holiday is approaching usually comes via marketing campaigns with 50% off at your favorite department store.
Or perhaps no money down and other gimmicks thrown out by your local car dealership. Call me crazy, but a day dedicated to those who have fallen while serving in our country’s armed forces doesn’t come off as celebratory.
This day of remembrance started as Decoration Day, remembering those who had lost their lives fighting in the Civil War. The exact birthplace of Memorial Day is hard to verify since dozens of cities and towns have bickered over the rights to hometown. In May 1966, President Lyndon Johnson declared Waterloo N.Y. as the official birthplace of Memorial Day. Although the exact location of Memorial Day’s inception may not be known, it is irrefutably the result of the Civil War. On the 5th of May, 1868, General John Logan stated, “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated 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, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” The 30th of May was designated as Decoration Day because it held no single battle’s anniversary.
A speech was given by General James Garfield at Arlington National Cemetery on the first official Decoration Day. The 20,000 graves of Union and Confederate soldiers were decorated by the 5,000 participants in the ceremony. In 1873, New York became the first state to recognize the holiday, and the rest of the northern states followed by 1890. After the end of World War I, the holiday changed from honoring only those who fell in the Civil War to memorializing fallen service members from all of the United States wars and conflicts.
Perhaps one of the most familiar symbols associated with Memorial Day is the red poppy. The poppy became a symbol and a resource after Moina Michael conceived the idea to wear red poppies in honor of the fallen after being inspired by the poem Flanders Fields. Moina was the first to wear the red poppy for the sake of remembering fallen soldiers, and started selling poppies with the money going towards servicemen in need. The Veterans of Foreign Wars became the first veteran’s organization to nationally sell poppies starting right before Memorial Day in 1922. The “Buddy” Poppy program sold artificial poppies made by disabled veterans promoting the symbolism of the poppy while raising funds for servicemen and women in need.
Fast forward to present day, the Veterans of Foreign Wars are still wearing and selling poppies for servicemen and women in need carrying on the tradition. For some, this holiday hits closer to home than just the 29th of May . Regardless of any one person’s opinion, connection or none to the armed forces, it does not change the fact that over one million American men and women have died for this nation’s beliefs. So enjoy this extended weekend, and partake in the gatherings that follow this sacred day. Have a bountiful summer! But please take a moment to acknowledge what it takes to secure our nations freedoms and beliefs. The cost of freedom we enjoy as citizens is paid in blood by our brothers and sisters in arms. So pour one out for those who can’t share a drink with us anymore, or in The High Ground fashion, roll one up for those who we wish were here too burn one down with us. From everyone at the High Ground Cannabis Journal, we wish you all a safe and eventful holiday weekend.