I am writing to express my feelings about our recent city holiday celebration. I completely understand the need to bring people back together, celebrate joy and to boost the economy for our great place after the long months of the challenges of the COVID pandemic and restrictions as a result.
However, I want to respectfully express that I feel we did the wrong thing with a four-day carnival and bands for the recent Memorial Day in New Roads. We really don’t want to ever lose the significance of what Memorial Day is all about. Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
Known as Decoration Day, it originated on the fifth of May in 1868 when Gen. John Logan officially proclaimed in General Order No. 11: “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.”
Because the day wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle, he called it Decoration Day. In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael offered her own poem: “We cherish too, the Poppy red that grows on fields where valor led, it seems to signal to the skies that blood of heroes never dies.”
Before Memorial Day in 1922, the Veterans of Foreign Wars became the first veterans organization to sell poppies. Two years later their “Buddy” Poppy program sold artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.
Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1971 through a congressional resolution, now observed on the last Monday in May by almost every state. Looking ahead, let’s celebrate with carnivals, festivals and bands at more appropriate times.
Next year let’s focus on the real meaning of Memorial Day —paying a solemn tribute to those who fought for us and died as a result. Perhaps next year we can start a tradition of decorating flags with red poppies and hosting a “National Moment of Remembrance.”
This moment was born from a resolution passed in December 2000 asking that at 3 p.m. local time, all Americans “voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.”
Julie Eshelman Lee