The speaker will be Rick Head of Fayetteville. Other veterans also will participate in the program. Shane Adkins, a singer, songwriter and two-time “Thumbpicking Guitar Champion,” will be performing, according to Billy H. Thomas, post commander.
“Everyone is invited to join in and support this Memorial Day service together to remember the sacrifices of those who answered their nation’s call,” Thomas said. “The freedoms that so many Americans enjoy did not come cheaply.
“They were paid for with the flesh and blood of American servicemen and women and with the tears of those whose lives were changed forever by the loss of a loved one.”
With the National Holiday Act of 1971, Congress moved Memorial Day from May 30 to the last Monday in May. But critics say guaranteeing that the holiday is part of a three-day weekend promotes relaxation instead of stressing the holiday’s true meaning. In 1989, Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii introduced a bill to move the holiday back to the fixed date of May 30. He has reintroduced it in every Congress since then — with no success.
While traditional Memorial Day rites have dwindled in many towns, they remain strong at Arlington National Cemetery. Since the 1950s, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division have placed American flags at each of the more than 260,000 graves there.
During the weekend, they patrol around the clock to make sure each flag remains aloft. On the holiday itself, every year about 5,000 people turn out to see the President or Vice President give a speech and lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
And other Americans are encouraged to observe in a more solitary fashion. At 3 p.m. local time, according to the 2000 National Moment of Remembrance Act, which was passed to emphasize the meaning of Memorial Day, all Americans should “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.’”
The long-cherished Memorial Day tradition of wearing red poppies got its start in 1915. While reading Ladies’ Home Journal, an overseas war secretary named Moina Michael came across the famous World War I poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae, which begins, “In Flanders fields the poppies blow/ Between the crosses, row on row.”
Moved, she vowed always to wear a silk poppy in honor of the American soldiers who gave up their lives for their country. She started selling them to friends and co-workers and campaigned for the red flowers to become an official memorial emblem. The American Legion embraced the symbol in 1921, and the tradition has spread to more than 50 other countries, including England, France and Australia.
—Additional information by Laura Fitzpatrick, Time Magazine