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A soldier and his son are hugging each other.

Memorial Day is special to American families everywhere. On this day, the whole nation grieves the tragic losses, but also celebrates the lives that military people have lived. Although this day may not be very different for many widows, since they mourn their loved ones every day, it’s still crucial that we pay our respects to heroes on one special holiday.

The History Behind Memorial Day

Memorial Day is a springtime tribute to fallen soldiers. The tradition began in the late 1860s after the Civil War which ended in the spring of 1865. The day was established as a celebration of the lives of soldiers three years after the end of the war.

There is no official answer as to where the tradition emerged. It is possible that people in different states and regions of the country had memorial tributes for the soldiers at the same time.

On May 5th of 1866 Waterloo first celebrated the day and hosted a massive event. On this day businesses closed and the day was completely devoted to the event. Therefore, Waterloo, New York was officially declared as the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966.

Gradually, Memorial Day turned into a Decoration Day. The citizens honored past soldiers by decorating their gravestones. The holiday slowly became even bigger as the United States fought in more wars. Families all around the country pay their respects to military heroes that passed away in World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

General Logan, the American politician, and soldier picked May 30th for the Decoration Day. For years the two holidays had merged and were celebrated at once. In the 1960s, however, the Uniform Monday Act was passed by Congress. According to the act, Memorial Day is to be celebrated on the last Monday of May. The point of this act is to pay respects to soldiers for three days in a row. Hence the Memorial Day weekend. The law was finally established in 1971 and Memorial Day was declared as a federal holiday.


Memorial Day Traditions

Memorial Day is celebrated across the United States of America by throwing parades each year over the weekend. The members of veterans’ organizations and military personnel usually take charge of the parades.

Families of soldiers and other US citizens who wish to pay their respects visit cemeteries and memorials. People who wish to honor the soldiers, wear red poppies on Memorial Day weekend. The story behind red poppies is an interesting one.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was mesmerized by the sight of poppies in the spring of 1915, during World War I. He wrote a poem – In Flanders Field – inspired by the cluster of poppies where soldiers were buried. The poem has become one of the most popular arts connected to World War I and has been used in countless memorial ceremonies. Therefore, a red poppy has become the symbol of honoring tragically lost souls in the wars. Everyone in the nation wears a red poppy on their closing in memory of the fallen soldiers.

Memorial Day Through the Eyes of Military Families

It’s difficult to understand why some people choose to go to war as many would not have the courage to do so. However, this is a difficult decision that a small percentage of our country makes to honor our nation. This difficult decision is exactly what makes these people heroes and some of them are lost to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan when their families are left in the United States, mourning every day and night.

We hear the phrases “Thank you for your service!†and “Happy Memorial Day!†On this holiday, however, those who have truly lost loved ones to wars have a hard time feeling happy on this day.

This day is not only a reminder of the past to families but a reminder of the burden that many women have to carry around constantly. Being a widowed single mother is tough enough without looking at the tombstone and being reminded that once you had a partner who cared for you and loved you deeply.

We have a chance on Memorial Day to admire these women and raise a glass to their bravery. Although leaving your country to fight for it in a war is very brave, being a single mother takes all of the courage you can give. The lives of these women should be celebrated as well as they fend for themselves and their children while enduring the pain that comes with losing a loved one. They are left behind to pay mortgages or for their rental properties, while feeding and educating their children.

These proud and strong women hear the names of their past spouses being celebrated and honored on Memorial Day. Although it is not much different for military widows than any other, they are reminded that their husbands are lost, but their legacies live on in the hearts of the nation.

~Written by a MilSpouse Conversations Contributor


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