Memorial Day: 5 things you didn't know about the holiday

Honor US troops for Memorial Day by flying the American flag

Skip Bedell shows a simple way to fly the American flag this Memorial Day with Atlantic Flag & Pole

With many Americans fully vaccinated and lockdown restrictions being lifted, this year’s Memorial Day is probably going to be very exciting. Typically, the holiday is a great reason for people to kick off their summer with a backyard BBQ or a trip to the beach, although it’s likely this year’s celebrations will involve gathering with friends and family members that haven’t been together in person for over a year.

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With that in mind, here are five interesting things to consider while we’re celebrating, and paying respects to, the men and women who died serving this country.

#1. We’re all aware that Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, but Congress has also established an exact minute of remembrance. The National Moment of Remembrance Act, which was adopted in December of 2000, encourages every citizen to pause each Memorial Day at 3:00 p.m. local time to remember the brave men and women who died serving this country. In addition to any federal observances, Major League Baseball games usually come to a stop during the Moment of Remembrance, and for the past several years, Amtrak engineers have taken up the practice of sounding their horns in unison at precisely 3:00 p.m.

#2. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Memorial Day is celebrated in late May because that’s when flowers are likely to be blooming across the country. It was Union General John A. Logan who — after serving in the Mexican-American War and Civil War — proposed that Congress institute May 30th as Decoration Day (the predecessor to Memorial Day) to allow citizens to decorate the graves of deceased veterans with fresh flowers. (It’s also believed that Logan settled on the date because it wasn’t already the anniversary of any significant battles, according to History.com.)

#3. The Ironton-Lawrence Memorial Day Parade in Ironton, Ohio, is recognized as the oldest continuously running Memorial Day parade in the nation, beginning all the way back in 1868. However, the oldest (and first) Memorial Day parade in the country was held a year earlier in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. (It’s also worth noting that both the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C., and the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade in Queens, N.Y., each bill themselves as the largest Memorial Day parades in the nation.)

#4. “Taps,” the bugle call typically performed at military funerals as well as the annual Memorial Day wreath ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, was actually adapted from a separate Civil War bugle call known as “Scott Tattoo,” which was used to signal lights out. But, according to both the “Arlington National Cemetery Legacy of Honor” by Jim Harris, as well as “Stories Behind the Hymns that Inspire America” by Ace Collins, the new melody later became the preferred accompaniment at military funerals after Captain John Tidball of the Union Army ordered his men to quietly play “Taps” at a fellow soldier’s funeral, for fear that a traditional three-volley rifle salute would alert nearby Confederate troops to their location.

#5. For the first time in 20 years, the American Automobile Association (AAA) chose not to release a Memorial Day “travel forecast” in 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which “undermined” the accuracy of the annual report, according to AAA. However, the organization released its forecast this year, predicting that holiday travel would rebound to more than 37 million.

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