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The meaning and importance of Memorial Day hearken back to Abraham Lincoln’s words at the Gettysburg Address in 1863:
“The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.”
Indeed, Memorial Day, or Decoration Day as it was first known, has its roots in the years after the Civil War and the desire to remember its fallen combatants. The date has become synonymous with courage and freedom and now honors those who have served in wars throughout American history, right up to the present day.
As time has gone on—and wars were fought—Memorial Day has become a moment to reflect on all those men and women who have perished in battle. The holiday is typically celebrated with parades, visits to cemeteries, and rifle salutes by American Legion and VFW posts. Schools, businesses, banks, and post offices are closed to recognize the holiday. A wreath is placed annually at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
One lesser-known Memorial Day tradition is the wearing of red poppies to commemorate those we have lost. The practice began in Europe as a way to remember World War I. In the midst of the war, in the spring of 1915, red poppies began to poke through the soil amid the destruction in France and Flanders (northern Belgium). France and England pioneered the practice as part of Armistice Day, or November 11, and it soon spread to the United States for Memorial Day.
GreenFields Geneva recognizes the contributions of its many veterans throughout the year, thanking them on Veterans Day and hosting a panel discussion. Recently, We have unveiled our Wall of Honor, remembering the veterans who have lived within our community.
Looking ahead to this Memorial Day, the Geneva Memorial Day Parade takes place May 29, starting at 3rd and Crescent Place and traveling north through the center of town and concluding at Wheeler Park. Early morning observances will be held at Eastside Cemetery, State Street Bridge, County Veteran Memorial, and Geneva Township Center.
A comment by President Harry Truman perhaps best captures Americans’ sentiments toward its veterans. Their service and honor shall be with us forever:
"Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices."