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Flags placed in the ground in Arlington National Cemetary. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Remembering Those for Their Sacrifice and Service

Nifa Authors
Gary Mayo, Legislative Affairs Officer

As we reflect on this Memorial Day, it musters significant emotions deep within me. Remembering faces, places, events and emotional connection to them all.  The exhaustion, sweat and tears of being in a place that time forgot with men and women who all volunteered to protect the Homeland. Before I get too deep into what Memorial Day means, we should discuss the differences between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. 

Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, depending on the country where it’s observed at the end of World War I. The agreement stated that on the eleventh day of the eleventh month on the eleventh hour in 1918 fighting would cease and bring an end of “the war to end all wars.”

Gary Mayo works in the NIFA Office of the Director as the legislative affairs officer.
Gary Mayo works in the NIFA Office of the Director as the legislative affairs officer.

The United States Congress adopted a resolution on June 4, 1926 requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue annual proclamations calling for the observance of November 11 with appropriate ceremonies. The act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U.S. Code, Sec. 87a) was signed into law May 13, 1938. 

It made November 11 in each year a legal holiday: "a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as 'Armistice Day.” In 1954 the word “Armistice” was replaced by “Veterans.” While the holiday is commonly called Veteran's Day or Veterans' Day in calendars and advertisements, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs website states that the attributive (no apostrophe) case rather than the possessive case is the official spelling "because it is not a day that 'belongs' to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.”

NIFA invests millions of dollars for programs to support veterans including  Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, AgrAbility which supports disabled veterans, and NIFA and 4-H which established formal partnerships with Department of Defense’s Office of Military Community and Family Policy, Army Child, Youth and School Services, Air Force Airman and Family Services, and Navy Family Readiness to support positive youth development education for youth whose parents are serving in the military. 

Memorial Day also known as Decoration Day originated in the years following the Civil War, and it became an official holiday in 1971. It is observed on the last Monday of May and honors the men and women who died while serving in the United States military. Some Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting veterans’ cemeteries and memorials. Many Americans throw parties and BBQs. For me, it’s always an emotional time because of the men and women I have personally served with and fought beside in places that still have the fortifications of Alexander the Great. 

I would like to tell you about one of those Soldiers I served with. Edward Smith was a leader. Someone you could count on when you’re in a bind, when you needed help and even when you needed to talk to someone.  He joined the military because of September 11. To him, it was a calling he had to answer. He was loved by his family and fellow brothers and sisters in arms. He passed during a nighttime operation in Afghanistan with two fellow Soldiers. Their passing left a hole in the unit and in the hearts of those that served with them. During Memorial Day, I will celebrate theirs and others like them life and morn their passing. I will visit graves at Arlington National Cemetery and have a drink in their honor. 

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