The month of May was designated as Military Appreciation Month by Congress in 1999. This event takes place every year. The president of the United States is set to issue a proclamation each year. The proclamation is to remind all Americans to celebrate the month that pays tribute to those who have served and sacrificed for our freedom.
During Military Appreciation Month, there are six military holidays. Two of them are also federal holidays. The holidays are Loyalty Day, VE Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Mother’s Day, Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day.
Loyalty Day is May 1. Most people are not aware of when and what this day is. United States Congress designated this as “a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom.” Loyalty Day has been designated by every president of the United States with an official proclamation since 1958. The first Loyalty Day was celebrated in 1921 and was called “Americanization Day.” It was renamed “Loyalty Day” by President Eisenhower in 1955.
VE Day, which is the acronym for “Victory in Europe Day,” is on May 8. It has been celebrated since the end of World War II on the European Front since 1945. It later became an official military holiday in Military Appreciation Month.
Military Spouse Appreciation Day is the Friday before Mother’s Day. President Ronald Reagan first proclaimed “Military Spouse Day” as a military holiday in 1984. United States Congress later declared it as part of Military Appreciation Month in 1999. President Reagan stated in his proclamation, “In many instances, they subordinated their personal and professional aspirations to the greater benefit of the service family.”
Mother’s Day is the third Sunday of May. Mother’s Day was created in 1908 by Anna Jarvis. President Woodrow Wilson declared it as an official federal holiday in 1914. Children across the United States observe this by showing gratitude to their mothers and grandmothers, including service members and military spouses.
“Military mothers – whether they’re a deployed service member, supporting their child who is currently serving, or holding down the fort while their spouse is on the front lines – especially deserve to be acknowledged and remembered on Mother’s Day for the sacrifices they make every day.” (USO quote)
Armed Forces Day is the third Saturday of May. It is the day active duty military forces are celebrated. Armed Forces Day is the day to honor those who are currently serving, as well as those who previously served to defend our freedom.
Armed Forces Day was created Aug. 31, 1949, by Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. It was designated to replace the separate Army, Navy and Air Force Day. The day was made from the Armed Forces unification under the Department of Defense the National Security Act that was signed into law by President Harry S. Truman on July 26, 1947. Army, Navy and Air Force Day however, still do exist.
Memorial Day is on the last Monday of May. Memorial Day (previously called Decoration Day) is a federal holiday in the United States for honoring and mourning military personnel who have died in the performance of their military duties while serving in the United States Armed Forces. The holiday was formerly observed on May 30 from 1868 to 1970. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then placed on the last Monday in May.
Three years after the Civil War ended on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans – the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) – established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Major Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
According to the United States Library of Congress website, “Southern women decorated the graves of soldiers even before the Civil War’s end. Records show that by 1865, Mississippi, Virginia, and South Carolina all had precedents for Memorial Day.” The earliest Southern Memorial Day celebrations were simple, somber occasions for veterans and their families to honor the dead and tend to local cemeteries. In following years, the Ladies’ Memorial Association and other groups increasingly focused rituals on preserving Confederate Culture and the Lost Cause of the Confederacy narrative.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day to honor and mourn those who died while serving in the U.S. military. Many volunteers place an American flag on graves of military personnel in many cemeteries.
The American flags on many of the veterans’ graves in many Delaware County cemeteries remain year round and are refreshed each month. The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095 refresh the flags in Oak Grove Cemetery, Saint Mary Cemetery, Radnor Cemetery and a few other cemeteries. Other cemeteries throughout Delaware County are providing the same service via township trustees, veterans organizations and volunteers. I would encourage everyone to get involved. Flags are provided by the Delaware County Veterans Services Office. We greatly appreciate their support in this and other endeavors.
Memorial Day is not about parades, sales, cookouts, the start of summer, or honoring veterans; though these things are not necessarily bad. It is a day that is set aside to remember and honor those that never became veterans because they died in service to our country.
Fortunately, several communities in Delaware County have Memorial Day ceremonies that are delivered by veterans organizations. I do know that Ashley, Delaware, Powell, Radnor, and Sunbury have ceremonies. Check with your community to verify when and where their ceremony takes place.
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095 coordinates the ceremony at Oak Grove Cemetery in Delaware on Memorial Day. Instead of a parade, we have a processional from the front of the cemetery back to the Veterans West area. The processional begins around 9:30 a.m. and is lead by Stockhands Horses for Healing and follows up with a rider-less horse. The processional is on the cemetery’s main road, which is lined by 3-by-5 American flags.
The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Mary Fran Cassidy will lead the National Anthem. Sheriff Russell Martin will provide a message based on Memorial Day. Judge David Hejmanowski will present the Gettysburg Address as Abraham Lincoln. The 5th Ohio Light Artillery, Civil War level, will fire cannon volleys. VVA1095 Honor Guard will have readings, three shot rifle volley, taps and military honors flag folding.
We pay our respects and honor those who were killed while serving our country. It is not about veterans or active service; they have Veterans Day, Armed Forces Day and others for that.
No one signs up to die for their country, but we all know that is a distinct possibility when we do sign up to protect and defend the Constitution of The United States to preserve our rights, freedoms and the American way of life.
As for veterans who are buried in Delaware County, there are over 11,000. Veterans buried in the county go all the way back to the Revolutionary War. Oak Grove Cemetery, along with Saint Mary Cemetery, have over 3,000.
“Find the cost of freedom buried in the ground.”
Harold B. Wolford is president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 1095. He served in the United States Army from 1970 to 1973.