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Cook County Connections: Gratitude for Our Military

May 26, 2023 09:36AM ● By Editor
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From Cook County, Minnesota - May 26, 2023

By: Karen Christianson, Cook County Veterans Service Officer

“Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.” – Unknown

In the excitement of a 3-day weekend, cookouts, parades, and summer being so near, it’s easy to ignore or forget about the true meaning of Memorial Day: to remember and honor all military personnel who have died in the service of our country. Let us never forget the sacrifices of our fallen and their families and to keep those who gave everything to protect our country at the forefront of our mind during our celebrations.

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while defending our nation in their service with the U.S. Military. Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, began after the Civil War ended in the spring of 1865. The Civil War claimed more lives (620,000 or more) than any other conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries. People mourning their loss began to lay flowers and place flags on the graves of the fallen. 

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War Veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. He chose the thirtieth of May 1868, as a day to decorate the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion and whose bodies now lay in the churchyards of almost every city, village, and hamlet in the country. The thirtieth was chosen by General Logan because it wasn’t the anniversary of any specific battle. General Logan called it Decoration Day.

The origin of the current name of the holiday is unclear, but in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of “Memorial Day”.  The city established their Memorial Day on May 5, 1866.  Decoration Day originally honored only those lost in the Civil War, but during World War I the holiday evolved to commemorate all American military personnel who died in all wars. In 1968 Congress officially declared Memorial Day a federal holiday and established it as the last Monday in May, creating a three-day weekend for federal employees. Let us never forget why Memorial Day exists and take time to honor our fallen Veterans. Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time. Please take a moment to remember those who sacrificed their lives for your freedom.

The American Legion Post 413 will hold a short program on the lawn of the Cook County Courthouse at the Veterans Memorial. The program will begin at 11:00 a.m. Following the program, the American Legion Auxiliary Unit 413 will host a free meal for Veterans and their spouses at the Birch Terrace Supper Club.

In last year’s article I talked about how we can teach children about Memorial Day. This year I would like to talk about some other ways we can honor the fallen and show our gratitude this Memorial Day.

You can join the National Moment of Silence. In 2000, Congress passed The National Moment of Remembrance Act to honor America’s fallen heroes. At 3:00 p.m. local time Americans will take a moment of silence to remember.

Display the American flag from sunrise to sunset. The union (the blue field) should be uppermost and to the flag’s right. Flying the American flag is a symbol of the freedom and liberty Americans pledge their allegiance to.

Take time to visit a memorial or cemetery in your area. For those buried in Cook County, there should be a marking by or on the gravestone that mentions their service to the armed forces.

Wear a Red Poppy. After World War I, a poem by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae titled “In Flanders Field” gave homage to those who had fallen “beneath the poppies” on the battlefield.

In 1918, a woman named Moina Michael was inspired by this poem and began a two-year-long campaign to have the red poppy declared a national symbol of remembrance. Then in 1920, the American Legion adopted the red poppy as the official flower to memorialize soldiers who fought and died during the war.

The best way to show honor to the brave men and women who died for our country is to live each day appreciating all that you have. Be grateful for freedom, life, family and friends, your community, for the chance to get an education, and be grateful for everything good in your Life.

Whether it is Memorial Day or Veterans Day, each holiday is meant to be a day to pay tribute and honor those who have served in the military for their patriotism, love of county, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

I encourage all Veterans to connect with their County Veterans Service Officer (CVSO) to determine if they are eligible for any state or federal Veterans benefits. When discharged, a Veteran’s first stop should be to their local County Recorder’s Office to record their DD214. The second stop should be to their County Veterans Service Office to check on available benefits. No matter what the age of the Veteran, it is always best practice to record your discharge papers and talk to your CVSO about benefits you may be eligible for. If you are not eligible for state or federal benefits, there may be other programs you could be connected to that are offered to Veterans through a variety of organizations dedicated to helping Veterans in need.

To contact your Veteran Service Officer for Cook County, Karen Christianson, call 218-387-3639 and leave a brief message. Office hours are Monday – Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 

Have a very safe and enjoyable Memorial Day.

County Connections is a column on timely topics and service information from your Cook County government. Cook County – Supporting Community Through Quality Public Service.

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