Bringing Back the True Meaning of Memorial Day

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Mission Memorial Day 2015, Denali (All Photos courtesy of Margaux Mange/Mission Memorial Day)

(Memorial Day 2018 – Monday, May 28)

Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head 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.

More than a century later, Congress passed legislation in 1971 to set aside the last Monday of May as a national day to remember the Fallen. In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance resolution, which called on Americans to pause at 3 p.m. on this day to reflect on its meaning.

First Memorial Day

On the first Decoration Day in 1868, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.

Every year since then, many people visit cemeteries and memorials to honor those who have died in military service. An American flag is placed on each grave in national cemeteries. Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades annually, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations.

Keeping this tradition alive and bringing out the true meaning of this day, is a group of veterans who founded ‘Mission Memorial Day’

On the occasion of this year’s Memorial Day, we spoke with Margaux Mange, Co-founder, Mission Memorial Day.

Bataan Death March, Philippines

What is Mission Memorial Day?

Mission Memorial Day is a group of Veterans that has seen our friends killed in front of us, and had our bodies bruised and broken. We started a couple years ago climbing mountains to chase away our past, but also to remember our ghosts. So, we set out on a mission. We want to inspire a dismissal of the current norm for the last Monday in May and embrace in a dutiful remembrance of our loved ones. The day is about honoring their sacrifice, by the decoration of monuments and graves, or by pushing ourselves to exhaustion and fulfillment while we are carrying the names of the fallen. Mission Memorial Day is set on the task to bring back the true meaning of Memorial Day, and not only serve those that made it back from the battlefield, but those who didn’t. We must never forget to honor the fallen.

How did you come up with the idea of this organization?

Denali 2016 – Josh Jespersen and Margaux Mange

In 2014, we were hiking in the Sierra mountains and we had an idea to climb Denali the next year. As veterans, we are keenly aware that Memorial Day is no longer celebrated across the nation the way it should be. There are many patriots that do our comrades justice, but there are so many more mattress sales and car sales now than there are ceremonies. We were going to hopefully summit around Memorial Day and so we figured why not make it bigger than ourselves. Why not show the rest of our country that forgetting how Memorial Day should be recognized is not acceptable. Instead of just climbing for ourselves, we would push ourselves for them, our brothers and sisters. So, the idea for Mission Memorial Day was hatched.

What is your approach, what do you expect to achieve from this mission?

We made a Facebook page and a website with the intent to collect names of fallen soldiers to be carried on American flags on our expedition. After a couple months, we hadn’t received any submissions and didn’t think anyone really was interested. Then, as we were about to fly to Alaska, we figured out that we had more than 400 name submissions in our spam box. These names were accompanied with stories about the individuals. Meaningful stories, and that told us that we were at least reaching the family members who lost so much. So, year in and year out, we will keep charging forward on our mission till Americans go outside on Memorial Day and do something to remember. Instead of going to the store, we want them to go honor the fallen in a way they can be proud of. We want people to go to military cemeteries and pay respect. We know it will catch on, we just have to stay committed to the people we fought alongside.

What is the plan for this year’s Memorial Day tribute?

This year we are doing something local to engage more people. We are going to climb peaks in the Sawatch Range of Colorado. It is the roof of America. Right now, we have lost 12 service members in conflict in 2018, that number might change by Memorial Day, but we will have our Co-Founders and other ambassadors climb 12 peaks and fly 12 American flags adorned with the names of the fallen on Memorial Day.

 How can people participate in Mission Memorial Day?

If people are interested in participating in this year’s event, please go to our website and see our ambassador page or submit a name to be adorned on one of our flags to be remembered at www.MissionMemorialDay.com.

This organization is truly preserving the spirit of Memorial Day, and we should join hands to pay our respects for those who died protecting the freedom we enjoy today.

Tanya Sawhney is a Freelance Journalist and can be reached at: mailtanya05@gmail.com

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