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Memorial Day:  Remembering All Who Gave All

May 26, 2024
John Hairston
John Hairston

Each year, Americans observe Memorial Day on the last Monday in May. For many, the long weekend means the unofficial start of summer. Families, friends, and neighbors host big celebrations. Retailers push big sales. Schools take breaks, and vacations begin. While we welcome the time to have fun, the real reason for Memorial Day is far more solemn.

With origins tied to late 19th-century “decoration days” when citizens placed flowers on soldiers’ graves, Memorial Day evolved by 1971 as a federal holiday dedicated to remember and pay reverence to those who died during American military service in all wars. In contrast, Armed Forces Day in early May honors current members of the military; and Veterans Day each November 11 recognizes all who served in our United States Armed Forces.

On Memorial Day, many people visit military monuments and gravesites. Volunteers place American flags at headstones in national cemeteries. The National Moment of Remembrance Act in 2000 established one minute of silence at 3 p.m. to pay tribute to the members of our armed forces who served and died for our country.

Memorial Day is a time to reflect on the ultimate sacrifices of those whose courage and selfless service to our Nation have allowed us the freedoms to go and do as we please.

We at Hancock Whitney remember and salute all people who gave their lives so that we can live and do business freely. Their losses to protect our liberties constitute a debt no one can pay. We can honor their courage and commitment, though, by paying tribute, giving thanks, and asserting our commitment to carrying on the core values their self-sacrifices have safeguarded.

Flower for Remembrance

Poppy Pin

Red poppies have also been a tradition around Memorial Day for more than a century. In fact, National Poppy Day falls each year on the Friday before Memorial Day.

The poppy grew to signify remembrance as World War I raged in Europe. A Canadian physician and soldier, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae wrote his poetic lament, “In Flanders Field,” in 1915, describing blood-red poppies in bloom amid military graves in Belgium.

Three years later, American educator and humanitarian Moina Belle Michael, inspired by McCrae, penned the poem “We Shall Keep the Faith,” further turning the red poppy into a symbol of the often tragic price of freedom.

Nationally, veterans organizations and auxiliaries often sell paper poppies, poppy lapel pins, and poppy seeds to encourage remembrance and help fund resources and services for veterans.

In Gratitude

This Memorial Day, we should enjoy special moments with people who mean the most to us. Those now resting in peace served and died so that we can do so.

We should also remember the fallen and their families, the heroes who never came home, and what Memorial Day means to and for all of us. We can display our American flags at half-staff until noon, then full-staff until sunset. We can join in decorating military graves and wear red poppies. Based on our own beliefs, we can hope and pray for a permanent end to all war. We can contemplate and appreciate how fortunate we are to be the land of the free.

Because of the day’s more somber intent, a well-meant “Happy Memorial Day” isn’t very appropriate. Genuine, grateful words of caring for survivors of service people lost to wars and conflict — and heartfelt thanks to all active duty service members and veterans — are always in order, though.

As you reminisce and make new memories this Memorial Day, we at Hancock Whitney hope you can join us in remembering and paying homage to those who gave all for all of us. May you and yours have a safe and pleasant holiday marked by many opportunities to recognize and enjoy our American freedoms.


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