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Photo of Senator Ed Gomes.

STATE SENATOR

Ed Gomes

FIGHTING FOR OUR COMMUNITY

Remembering on Memorial Day

I'd like to take a moment to share with you a subject that is not about Democrats or Republicans. It's about Memorial Day, and being an American.

That's important to me because when I was a young man, I served in the U.S. Army for five years. Through this experience I met many brave men and women who dedicated themselves to serving our country.

Memorial Day is this Monday, May 29. Originally called "Decoration Day," Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service to America.

Senator Gomes and a Bridgeport veteran.

Memorial Day was borne out of the Civil War and a desire to honor our dead. It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, that "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 date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn't the anniversary of any particular battle.

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

The first state to officially recognize Decoration Day was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring all Americans who died fighting in any war.) Memorial Day is now observed in almost every state on the last Monday in May following Congressional passage of the National Holiday Act of 1971.

You might wonder what Red Poppies have to do with Memorial Day--sometimes you will see veterans or young children selling artificial red poppies outside of supermarkets on Memorial Day weekend.

Well, those poppies were inspired by the 1915 poem "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae, which begins "In Flanders fields the poppies blow, Between the crosses, row on row."

Another poet, Moina Michael, wrote a poem in 1918 called "We Shall Keep the Faith" which reads in part, "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, But lends a lustre to the red Of the flower that blooms above the dead In Flanders Fields."

Michael made a personal pledge to "keep the faith" to remember our war dead, and she vowed to wear the red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922, the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies.

I want to also let you know that a "National Moment of Remembrance" resolution was passed by Congress in December 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, 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."

I know there will be plenty of parades, memorial events, and maybe even some outdoor dining and fun activities this Memorial Day weekend. I only ask that you take a moment to attend one of those events, thank a living veteran for their service, and pause for a moment at 3 p.m. to honor those who have made our great nation what it is today: the best country on Earth.