On the last Monday of May the USA celebrate Memorial Day
– the day in memory of Americans, fallen in the battlefield.
The tradition to celebrate this day appeared 140 years ago. It was the period of finishing the Civil War, taken away lives of 800 000 Americans. On November 19, 1863 President Lincoln spoke at the national graveyard opening in Gettysburg, where some months before, in July one of the most significant Civil War battles took place, when more than 50 000 Americans were killed. This outstanding speech, going down to the US history as the Gettysburg address, has such words: “We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. …that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain… that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”.
The address, consisting of 268 words, started the Memorial Day
tradition. At first it was celebrated only in the South states, where the dead graves were decorated by flowers. Both southerners and northerners were commemorated at that. A widespread celebration of Memorial Day
first held on May 30, 1968, when 5 000 Americans at the head of General James Garfield placed flowers on graves of 20 000 soldiers, resting at Arlington National Cemetery.
The first Northern state to celebrate this holiday in 1873 was New York. But already by 1890 it was recognized by the entire North. After the First World War the holiday changed to include soldiers that had died during any war. Memorial Day
has a tradition to pin to clothes red poppies, having become the symbol of the dead heroes eternal memory. It arose after the First World War, when an American woman Moina Michael first pinned this flower, embodying blood color, shed for the freedom’s sake. In 1950 another tradition was born - Arlington National Cemetery visitors began to lay miniature American flags on the dead soldiers’ graves.
The main festive ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery, located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Virginia, is held on Memorial Day
. Here, among more than 250 000 similar white headstones there is the Unknown Soldier grave. Every year on Memorial Day
the American President – the US armed forces commander-in-chief - or his representative lays flowers on this grave.
Americans’ remains, killed during the First and Second World wars, as well as during the Korean War rest here. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier represents a huge 39 tones memorial-sarcophagus, the walls of which are made of white marble. Its inner side, directed to Washington, is engraved with figures, symbolizing Courage, Victory and Peace. The opposite side is etched with words “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God”. Honor guard is inside.
America followed the example of its allies and on May 4, 1921 the US Congress took the resolution about an unknown American soldier burial, fallen during the First World War. On November 21, the same year, on the third anniversary of the Peace Agreement signing (about The First World War in Europe finishing), President Warren Harding headed the ceremony of the first Unknown Soldier burial at the Arlington National Cemetery.
In 1956 President Dwight Eisenhower signed the bill concerning unknown Americans’ remains burial, killed during the Second World and Korean Wars.
In 84 President Ronald Reagan headed the ceremony of burial a soldier, killed during the Vietnam War. However, in 98 year, his remains were extracted because progress in genetics allowed to identify them as remains of Michael Blossie, the US Air Force captain. So, the modern science solved the problem of unknown soldiers for good.
Since 1948 year it’s the third infantry regiment armed forces personnel that is on guard near the Unknown Soldier grave. This regiment is also on the honor guard about US presidents, visiting the Arlington National Cemetery.
“We commemorate the memory for the fallen all the year round, day and night”, - said corporal Naghten Whaskott.
Judging from Whaskott’s words, armed forces personnel, forming the Arlington National Cemetery honour guard, are made strict demands: they should be American citizens, have irreproachable statement of service, perfect military bearing and pass a special six months training.
Only birds’ singing and tourists’ whispering shatter the solemn silence atmosphere near the Unknown Soldier tomb. Relieving the guard takes place every half of an hour, at this moment the third infantry regiment officer asks visitors to keep absolutely quiet. Sentries embody soldiers, lost for the homeland not only their life, but their name.
That what is happening with us as if being reflected on them, - explains corporal Whaskott. That’s why we should thoroughly watch our behavior, even after our shift. We always let newcomers know that they have to display respect for the dead. Cause we take pains not for ourselves, but for them”.
Written by Sicyl
Submitted by Sicyl
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