Annually in the USA on the last Monday of May celebrates Memorial Day, a national holiday dedicated to honoring the memory of military personnel who have given their lives in service to the country. This day holds significant importance not only for native Americans but also for millions of immigrants who have made the USA their new home.

History of Memorial Day

The origins of Memorial Day date back to the mid-19th century, during the American Civil War. In 1868, General John Logan, leader of an organization for Union veterans (Grand Army of the Republic), declared May 30th as Decoration Day. On this day, Americans decorated the graves of soldiers who died in the Civil War with flowers and wreaths. The date was chosen because it did not coincide with any specific battle, allowing for the exclusive commemoration of the fallen.

Over time, Decoration Day evolved to include remembrance of all American military personnel who died in various conflicts, including World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and others. In 1971, the US Congress passed a law making Memorial Day an official national holiday, observed on the last Monday of May. This change allowed citizens to enjoy a three-day weekend, further promoting the holiday’s traditions.

Traditions and Customs

Memorial Day is marked by numerous traditions aimed at honoring the memory of the fallen. These include:

  • Visiting cemeteries and memorials: Many Americans visit military cemeteries and memorials to lay flowers and wreaths on the graves of the deceased. Visits to places like Arlington National Cemetery, where official ceremonies are held with the participation of government officials, are particularly popular.
  • Moment of silence: In 2000, the US Congress established the National Moment of Remembrance, which occurs at 3:00 PM local time. During this moment, citizens across the country pause for one minute to honor the fallen.
  • Parades: Many cities host parades featuring military personnel, veterans, as well as students and members of various community organizations. Parades are accompanied by patriotic music, speeches, and the laying of wreaths.
  • Displaying flags: Many buildings and homes display American flags in respect for the fallen. On government buildings, flags are flown at half-staff until noon and then raised to full-staff until sunset.

Significance for Immigrants

For immigrants, Memorial Day holds special significance. It is not only a day of remembrance and respect for the fallen but also an opportunity to appreciate the freedoms and opportunities that life in the USA provides. Many immigrants, upon becoming citizens of this country, also contribute to the nation’s defense and development by serving in the armed forces or actively participating in public life.

The history of the USA is filled with examples of immigrant heroism, where they fought for the country’s freedom and made significant contributions to its history. Here are a few notable individuals:

  • Marquis de Lafayette: A French aristocrat who came to America to assist the colonists in their struggle for independence. He served in the Continental Army under George Washington and played a key role in several battles, including the Siege of Yorktown.
  • Casimir Pulaski: A Polish military commander known as the “father of American cavalry.” He helped organize and train cavalry units and died in the Battle of Savannah.
  • Baron von Steuben: A Prussian officer who developed a training system for soldiers, significantly improving the combat effectiveness of the Continental Army. His contribution was particularly crucial during the winter at Valley Forge.
  • Felipe B. Espinoza: A Mexican immigrant who participated in the Normandy invasion and other key battles of World War II. He was awarded numerous military honors for his service.
  • Henry Kissinger: A German immigrant who played a significant role in American foreign policy and served in the US Army during World War II.
  • Salvador J. Lara: A Mexican immigrant who became one of the most highly decorated medics in the US Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Ia Drang.
  • John Basilone: The son of Italian immigrants, he became a hero of World War II and received the Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Interesting Facts About Memorial Day

  • First ceremony: The first large-scale Decoration Day ceremony took place at Arlington National Cemetery in 1868, where General James Garfield, who later became president, delivered a speech.
  • Poppy symbol: The red poppy became a symbol of remembrance for fallen soldiers due to the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian military doctor John McCrae. Subsequently, poppies began to be worn in memory of those who died in war.
  • Expansion of the holiday: Over time, Memorial Day traditions spread to all states and became an important part of American culture. Today, it is celebrated not only in official ceremonies but also in schools, workplaces, and everyday life.

Memorial Day reminds us all of the importance of valuing peace and the freedoms for which our ancestors fought. On this day, it is important not only to enjoy a day off but also to reflect on the significance of the peace and freedoms that many people, including immigrants who made the USA their home, have fought for and continue to fight for.