Kid’s Craic: The History Behind Memorial Day

Kid’s Craic: The History Behind Memorial Day
By Megan Lardie

In the United States, Memorial Day is the unofficial beginning of summer, but the day has a very somber history. It is observed on the last Monday of May each year. Many people celebrate by attending parades, visiting cemeteries, and gathering with family.

Memorial Day honors the men and women who lost their lives in battle while actively serving in the military. It began in the years following the Civil War, but did not become an official federal holiday until 1971. It originally was only to commemorate those who died in the Civil War, but has now come to honor those who died in World War I and II, The Vietnam War, The Korean War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Decoration Day
This day of remembrance was first called Decoration Day. This name was chosen because it did not point to one particular battle; it was meant to include all of the battles of the Civil War. In May of 1868, General John A. Logan called for a nationwide day of remembrance. He suggested that people should put flowers or other decorations on the graves of soldiers who died defending their country and whose bodies lie in almost every city and village in the country.

The Civil War, which was between the north and the south of the United States, claimed more lives than any other war in US history. It is because of this war that the country’s national cemeteries were established in several states.

The most famous of these national cemeteries is Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield gave a speech at Arlington National Cemetery and over 5,000 people decorated the graves of 20,000 Civil War soldiers that were buried there.

The Irish Brigade
When the Civil War broke out, over 150,000 Irishmen joined the Union army. Many had just immigrated to the US and were not even citizens yet. Some joined to show loyalty to their new country, and some joined hoping that by showing patriotism, the anti-Irish discrimination would stop.

Between 1861 and 1863, the soldiers who fought in the all-Irish units were called the Irish Brigade. They were known for their courage and toughness in battle. Unfortunately, because of their bravery, most of these soldiers died during some of the biggest battles of the Civil War. On the grounds where the Battle of Gettysburg took place, there is a monument to honor these men of the Irish Brigade.

How to Say Thank You to a Veteran
To do your part to honor these brave men and women, check to see if your city holds a parade or a memorial service over the holiday weekend and make plans to attend. You could also find a national cemetery near you and place flags at the graves of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. If you know someone in the military now or a veteran, you could send them a letter or flowers, or do something to show your appreciation for all they do for you and your family.

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Kids in the Kitchen
Try this fun pasta salad in a jar for your next picnic!

  • 8 ounces each uncooked bow tie pasta, medium pasta shells and wagon wheel pasta
  • 2 cups Greek vinaigrette
  • 3 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) marinated quartered artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1 jar (12 ounces) roasted sweet red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 package (3-1/2 ounces) sliced pepperoni
  • 1 can (2-1/4 ounces) sliced ripe olives, drained


  • Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain pasta; rinse with cold water and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Add vinaigrette to pasta; toss to coat. Add vegetables, basil, cheese, pepperoni and olives; toss to combine. Transfer to covered jars. Refrigerate until serving.

Literature Corner
Ghost Cadet
by Elain Marie Alphin 

Benjy is not happy that he is stuck spending his vacation with his grandmother in Virginia. He thinks she probably won’t like him because no one else seems to like him either. The last thing Benjy expects is to make a friend, and a ghost at that!

He must help Cadet William Huch McDowell, who was killed in the Civil War, find his grandfather watch, which he hid from the Yankees just before he died. Can William count on Benjy? No one has ever depended on him so much. For ages 9-12, 192 pages.

Abe Lincoln: The Boy Who Loved Books
by Kay Winters

Learn about the early life of Abraham Lincoln in this picture book biography. He grew up in a tiny log cabin listening to the stories his mother and father used to tell. He walked miles to borrow books and walked miles to return them. He loved books and he changed the world. For ages 5-8, 40 pages.

Lardie’s Laughs
Q. Why is the mushroom always the life of the party?
A. Because he’s a fun-gi!
Q. Why is a computer so smart?
A. Because it listens to its motherboard!

Gab in Gaelic
You are very brave = Tá tú an-chróga (pron: taw two on crow-geh) *Megan is a Reading Intervention educator with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. She has a BA from Hiram College and BA+ from Ashland University. She resides in Avon Lake with her husband, Joe, and their five children. She can be reached at [email protected].

*Megan is a Reading Intervention educator with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. She has a BA from Hiram College and BA+ from Ashland University. She resides in Avon Lake with her husband, Joe, and their five children. She can be reached at [email protected].

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