Memorial Day is a day of remembrance for those men
and women who have died in our nation's service. It was originally
known as Decoration Day and was perhaps our most solemn holiday.
Memorial Day was established by a General Order issued
by the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. It
was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on
the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National
But the solemnity of the occasion has steadily abated in
recent times. It is now seen as as the beginning of
summer....celebrated with parades and picnics and fun and games
and three-day sales.
As recounted in an internet history of the holiday, "Traditional
observance ....has diminished over the years. Many Americans
nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial
day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly
ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper
flag etiquette for the day" (half-staff until noon, full staff
The change started taking place after Congress passed the
National Holiday Act of 1971, which made the day into a three-day
weekend. As a statement by the Veterans of Foreign Wars
proclaimed, "Changing the date merely to create three-day
weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt,
this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant
Bills have been introduced in Congress to restore May 30 as a
one-day observance of Memorial Day, but with little success.
In the meantime, there is an antidote to the nonchalance
in the form of a documentary entitled "Honor Flight." Honor Flight
refers to a non-profit program of local and locally-funded
programs which fly World War II veterans to Washington to visit
the WWII Memorial (opened only in 2004) and other memorials,
such as the Air Force memorial, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
and the replica of the Iwo Jima flag-raising.
It chronicles the powerful and heart-warming and at times
heart-wrenching stories of four WWII vets from Wisconsin (the
program exists in 27 other states). They emotionally recollect
their wartime experiences and remind of us of how much we owe
to those who fought in WWII., those members of the "Greatest
The doc is the creation of Dan Hays, a filmaker in
Washington DC, who was alerted to Honor Flights and went to the
WWII Memorial to talk to vets. He said when one of them told
him, "I could die a happy man now that I've made this trip," the
idea for the film was born.
Joe Demler, one of the four vets featured in the film,
noted that "When the veterans came home, there was no welcome
home ceremony. It was someting they didn't get 60 years ago
when they returned from service...It means a lot to those veterans
who are now in the 80's and 90's.....It's a great feeling."
"Honor Flight" is being shown in small towns all over America.
It's also accessible on Video On Demand at Snag Films, I Tunes
and Amazon and will be available on DVD on June 4.
If you want to be reminded of what should be the real meaning
of Memorial Day, this is must-see video.