Looking back at my most popular blog post

Since I am working on marketing my book, I looked back to what was my most popular post. It happened to be one not about writing, but about a holiday. A holiday that is special to me for many reasons, but it also falls around and sometimes on my mom’s birthday.

Not sure why this one took off so well on social media, but, I’m examining some of those things as I decide what types of posts really work for my audience. Because those will be the places I will focus some of my marketing efforts.

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Memorial Day 2016

Two of the holidays we celebrate in May fall into a theme that May is known for, Military Appreciation Month. That theme leads me right into the final holiday to be celebrated in May, and my blog’s theme, Memorial Day. This year it falls on May 30th which would have been my Mom’s 77th birthday. Every year around her birthday, when Memorial Day didn’t fall on May 30th, she would say the real Memorial Day is supposed to be celebrated on my birthday. I thought she was just trying to make a point that it was supposed to be celebrated on her birthday for the sake of it. As I was researching the history of Memorial Day, I found out that May 30th was the original date that Decoration Day was celebrated starting in 1868. I guess that Mom was right!

According to The History of Memorial Day on the pbs.org website, Decoration Day was a celebration of the men, both Union and Confederate, who lost their lives in the American Civil War. It came out of a tradition of placing flowers on the graves of the soldiers who died in battle.

During its first celebration at Arlington Cemetery in 1868, the former Union General, James Garfield, who was an Ohio Congressman at the time, made a speech before the 5000 volunteers who laid flowers at more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers graves. Here was a quote from that speech.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

– James A. Garfield
May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery
 

That event at Arlington Cemetery was inspired by what many towns and cities were doing for Decoration Day since the end of the war in 1865. New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. After World War I, the holiday was expanded to celebrate the soldiers who died in all of America’s Wars. Once it became a National Holiday it was celebrated on the last Monday in May. That decision made the holiday not always fall on May 30th, to my Mom’s dismay.

There are multiple military holidays celebrated throughout the year. I saw a post on Facebook this week that discussed the differences between three of them. Memorial Day is the designated day to remember those who have lost their lives while serving in our armed forces. Armed Forces Day, which I blogged about last week, is designated to recognize the men and women who are currently serving. And Veteran’s Day, which falls on November 11th every year, is the day to recognize those who have served, but are still living.

So, what does one do to celebrate Memorial Day? At Arlington Cemetery, volunteers place an American flag on every grave. The President or Vice-President of the United States will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. During my research, this became an interesting story to me, one that is a big part of what Memorial Day is all about.

According to the ArlingtonCemetery.mil website, the tomb is a grave that sits on top of a hill at Arlington Cemetery. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified soldier from World War I to be buried in the New Memorial Amphitheater. On Memorial Day 1921, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from a World War I cemetery in France. Here is the story of how the one to be buried in the tomb was chosen.

Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat, highly decorated for valor and received the Distinguished Service Medal in “The Great War, the war to end all wars,” selected the Unknown Soldier of World War I from four identical caskets at the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, Oct. 24, 1921. Sgt. Younger selected the unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. He chose the third casket from the left. The chosen unknown soldier was transported to the United States aboard the USS Olympia. Those remaining were interred in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery, France.

The Unknown Soldier lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda from his arrival in the United States until Armistice Day, 1921. On Nov. 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

On  August 3, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill to pay tribute to the unknown soldiers who died in World War II and the Korean War. The same type of ceremony that was done for the World War I tomb was done for these unknown soldiers. They decided to chose one soldier from each of the main battle theaters in World War II, the European and Pacific, and one from the Korean War. Here is the story of how the ones to be buried in the second and third tombs were chosen in 1958.

Two unknowns from World War II, one from the European Theater and one from the Pacific Theater, were placed in identical caskets and taken aboard the USS Canberra, a guided-missile cruiser resting off the Virginia capes. Navy Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, then the Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, selected the Unknown Soldier of World War II. The remaining casket received a solemn burial at sea.

Four unknown Americans who died in the Korean War were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle made the final selection. Both caskets arrived in Washington May 28, 1958, where they lay in the Capitol Rotunda until May 30.

That morning, they were carried on caissons to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded each the Medal of Honor, and the Unknowns were interred in the plaza beside their World War I comrade.

The unknown solider from the Vietnam War was designated during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor on May 17, 1984. Here is the story of his burial.

The Vietnam Unknown was transported aboard the USS Brewton to Alameda Naval Base, Calif. The remains were sent to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., May 24. The Vietnam Unknown arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., the next day. Many Vietnam veterans and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan visited the Vietnam Unknown in the U.S. Capitol. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown.

The Vietnam unknown soldier’s story didn’t end there.

The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were exhumed May 14, 1998. Based on mitochondrial DNA testing, DoD scientists identified the remains as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. It has been decided that the crypt that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown will remain vacant. The crypt cover has been replaced with one that has the inscription,

“Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

After the research I did for this blog, I have a better understanding about what Memorial day is really about. Many men and women lost their lives fighting for our country’s security. For some of them, we will never know where their final resting places are. The traditions found in the ceremony of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a somber reminder that not all who serve find their way back home after the war.

For Memorial Day this year, I’ll be saying a prayer for all of the soldiers that serve, have served and died serving our country and their families. I’ll also be going to visit my mom’s grave. She wasn’t a solider in a war, but it is still her day. Happy Birthday Mom!

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Happy Mother’s Day 2017

Happy Mother’s Day!

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw a post that I did in memory of my mom. She passed away nine years ago from breast cancer. Ever since then, Mother’s Day has been a different day than what Hallmark will portray on TV.

When I think about it, each Mother’s Day since then has been a different day for me. The first couple of years, I participated in the Susan B Koman Race for the Cure 5K walk in memory of her. My mom was a private person and didn’t advertise she had the disease. I see the survivors out there and feel the electricity and comradery of people who are dealing with the disease, either as a survivor or as a family member in the support role. It is very inspiring, but for me it was also a big reminder that it is the reason why she is gone.

And other years, I just go about what a normal Sunday would look like. Errands, projects, relaxing, and getting ready for Monday. But she always comes to mind and I feel a little pang in my heart. It is Mother’s Day and I don’t get to have the day with my mom, the way that others do. A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday that she was thinking of the women without mom’s on Mother’s Day. She said she was going to give her mom and extra hug, knowing how lucky she is to have her here with her. That made me smile. If your mom is with you in your life, appreciate it. Things really do change once they are gone. Not just for Mother’s Day, but for many other events that a daughter needs her mom for.

So, what do I do? Every year since she passed away, I buy a single rose. The tradition started when I would pick up a pink rose from a local flower shop after completing Race for the Cure. Then I make a trip to the cemetery (about a mile from my house) and spend some time just sitting there with her. It is a little different Hallmark moment than I imagined it would be. But, it is my Mother’s Day.

My mom loved to garden. The featured picture for this post is not a rose, but lilacs. We had two big bushes in our back yard growing up. In the spring, my mom always had bunches of them in the house. I love that scent. When they start blooming in the spring, it reminds me of my childhood home and my mom. It is one of the many good things about being with her that I hang onto in my heart. And it makes me smile.

Week 3 – Countdown to Book Launch – The Hard Way

27 days to go!

Under a month to go!

The name of the self publishing game is choices and making the right ones. Thank goodness I have Facebook writers’ groups I follow and other sources through networking I have done that are able to guide me on my publishing journey. There are many options for becoming a self published author. I have been researching all sorts of ways to do it and have learned a lot.

Don’t pay a vanity press to be published. The number one rule in the process. Now, to make your book ready to be published, there are expenses that can be incurred along the way. After you have put your time in writing and self editing (which has a price to it, even though it seems free since there is no actual outlay of money involved), as a self published author you will need to pay for an editor and cover. If you can find an agent and publishing house that will take your book on, they will typically take care of these costs for you.

When I first had the dream of doing this as a kid, I’m sure I didn’t have any idea that it would cost me something. I figured every one would love my book and publishing would just magically happen. I believe I have a good book in my grasp, but I may have to make the effort and invest the money to get it out there.

It isn’t a cheap endeavor. I waited a long time before I took the plunge to publish. I started writing this book almost four years ago. Like I talked about last week, I wrote two drafts for two more books while I waited to publish this one. Don’t let the costs or the time that it may take do it discourage you. If it is what you want, go for it!

The other thing I will caution you on is don’t shortcut the self publishing process in the name of being in a hurry or to cut costs.

Don’t try and edit your own stuff or have your friend do it (unless they truly are an editor). I have read a few self published books that tried the self editing thing and it doesn’t work. You are too close to your own writing to do it. I have learned a lot from my editor and see the issues that my own writing has thanks to her. Depending on the type of editing your project needs and how many words it is will determine the price. Line editing (primarily grammar and punctuation) can range between $300-$600. Developmental editing (story line adjustments and content reading) can range between $1200-$2000.

If you are not a cover designer, pay someone to design your cover. This will be the first thing your readers and potential buyers will see. It can make or break a sale for you. There are many designers that have premade covers for $50-$75 that may fit your book and budget. Otherwise, they are also able to do custom covers for more of a $200-$300 price tag. In my opinion, it is money well spent.

The one thing I have noticed is that some editors and cover designers are able to do payment plans to help you get these jobs done. I did a payment plan for my editing piece of this project and it is what ultimately made it affordable for me to do. However, if I would have known about these costs beforehand, I would have been putting money aside for it as I was going along.

Where am I at in my process?

I finished my final read through of my manuscript yesterday and sent it back to my editor. She will do a final look over and get the final formatting done. I may have to look at it one more time to make sure that the spacing works.

My cover designer has my cover set for me to look at. I’ll be able to take a look and see if the spacing works or if I feel it needs to be tweaked. I still need to decide on an author picture. Since I’m writing with a pen name, it seems kind of funny for me to use my photo, but I’m still the person writing the book.

Once I get the final version back, I’ll be sending it in to copyright.gov and getting it registered for an official copyright.

Be sure to stay tuned for the cover reveal next Monday! We are counting down the days and I’m getting closer to realizing a dream. Pretty exciting time.

Happy 4th of July! It’s a milestone day.

A couple weeks ago, I realized that I was getting close to 100 blog posts on this site. I looked at the calendar and noticed what day the post was going to fall on. This year July 4th falls on a Monday, the day I post my weekly blog on. This is my 100th post on WordPress and it is going live on the internet on the 4th of July 2016. It’s debut comes on a day designated to celebrate our country’s independence with picnics, parades and fireworks. It is a great day to post this milestone’s debut on.

You may notice some changes to the look of my blog site. Thanks to some new found knowledge from a workshop about WordPress that I am currently working through, I did some updates to my blog. Some of them you will see. Different colors with additional pages containing an author bio and another page with a contact me form. Other changes are working behind the scenes to make things work better on the site.

So, let’s start this post with a little bit of background about Independence Day.

According to Wikipedia, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress. It declared that the original thirteen American colonies would become a new nation and no longer be a part of the British Empire.

From the onset, Americans celebrated the anniversary of this event on the date the declaration was signed and appears on the actual document, July 4th, 1776, rather than the date the resolution was approved, which was July 2nd. Not only is the difference in these dates an issue and disputed fact, but it isn’t even certain that the declaration was even signed on July 4th, even though Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin later wrote they actually did sign it on the 4th.

Some additional bits of trivia about July 4th,

  • Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only signers of the Declaration to later become presidents of the United States, died on the same day, July 4, 1826, which was the 50th anniversary of when the Declaration was supposedly signed.
  • Another Founding Father, James Monroe, died on July 4, 1831, now the third president who has died on the holiday.
  • So far there has only been one president born on Independence Day, Calvin Coolidge, our 30th president, was born on July 4, 1872.

I enjoy doing research for my blog posts. I learn a lot of interesting things that I want to share. I hope you find some of it interesting too. Through my blogs this year I have learned many fun facts about different events in the history of our country. I wonder if one of these facts will win me any money in a trivia contest someday.

Along with my 100th blog post milestone, I have another blog writing milestone to celebrate from this holiday weekend. I achieved the 100 likes mark on Saturday, thanks to another author who commented and liked last week’s blog post. Even though I feel like my writing has been at a stand still lately, these milestones show me the work and time I am putting in on my blog is progressing. I’m also making more contacts and meeting some great people in the process. This networking is helping the typically solitude life of a writer change into more of a social experience.

I have gained so much knowledge and experience about the writing and publishing process through this journey. Not only by the writing itself, but also by listening to the advice of others who have walked the path before me. There are a lot of people to thank for their help, advice, and support along the way. I know now, as a writer, you definitely don’t journey down this path alone. I have made contacts with so many people around the world through blogging and social media groups. I don’t know how I would have done it before the invention of Facebook and the creation of my blog.

Last week while I was sorting out my feelings about my writing progress, I came up with the writing house analogy. It is a way to view what I’m putting together for all my writing processes and goals. I compared it to building a house, because there are a lot of things that go into it. Some are visual, like the colors and furniture on the inside and some are essential but hidden from view, like the foundation, or writer’s platform, which needs to be stable and built the right way. Constructing the writing house is not only putting together what is seen on the outside, the right website, Facebook page, blog, or cover design for the novel. It is also having a comfortable place to go and create the stories and blogs that make the rest of the writing journey work and the house function with it.

Everyone has a happy place. A place where they can go to feel relaxed and calm or maybe just simply be happy. For my writing house, I’m picturing a tree house with a writing desk in it. Birds singing and wind blowing through the leaves. I feel a sense of calm when I imagine myself there, away from the stress of day-to-day life. It gives me a place where I can be quiet with my thoughts and listen to my heart’s passions; for my family and my writing. Even if I can only just imagine being there, it ultimately helps me get creatively inspired to write those stories that are inside of me.

My 100th post is a definite writing milestone for me. It makes me stop and think about how far I have come with my writing. A lot of work has been and will continue to be put into it. There have been a fair share of hard times and happy times on the journey, but anything worth having has to be worked for. And the work isn’t easy, but the results are well worth it in the end.

A Girl is building her writing house

We finally wound up with a weekend the boys didn’t have any weekend baseball tournaments and I wasn’t on call for my day job. So, I took some vacation time, made it a long weekend, and we were able to get away from the day-to-day life in the city. As we got closer to the day we were going to leave, I was hoping the trip would help me rejuvenate and refocus my energies towards my writing.

Status of my writing this past week starts with baseball, baseball, baseball. Love the sport and to watch the boys play, but between that and some personnel changes at work, finding time to work on my WIP edits has been nearly impossible. I’m so excited to get working on them and not being able to is creating some additional stress.

I’m not the type of person who procrastinates on getting things done. I make a plan and  figure out a way to get it done. I thrive on making progress towards goals. For me to get started on this project, I seem to be looking for a good time with a lot of quality writing time. I have a feeling this approach is going to get me into trouble. I probably won’t find what I’m looking for. Normally I’m able to put that kind of time into my schedule here and there. I currently do this when I work on my blog or writing platform during my lunch breaks. At this point of my life it seems almost impossible to find enough of those times.

When I think about what is going on with me right now, I do have more responsibilities at work. My home life has some big changes coming soon. Most of which we weren’t planning on doing right now. Don’t worry, none of it is bad, just stressful because it is all coming to us at once. So again, my writing goes on the back burner as my energies are spent in other places.

It isn’t as if I didn’t write at all this weekend. I wrote a preliminary blog post for Monday Morning (this one that you are reading right now). And, I was working on an online writing workshop through one of my Facebook groups to improve the views and content of my WordPress site. I know the work put into it will help my writer’s platform for future marketing initiatives.

With all of that being said, the editing on my manuscript still is not getting done.

Most writers are not fortunate enough to be able to write as a full time career. Many are in the same boat that I am, having to write while working another job. Add family life on top of that and it makes me one busy person. There are many books and seminars on setting priorities and creating manageable plans to get tasks done. Sometimes creating and following those plans has worked for me. Then there are times like this when those plans just can’t fight off the challenges brought on by every day life. So, I wind up dropping that plan and start taking care of the immediate issues at hand.

Finding the time has been one of my biggest obstacles to get myself into my writing. As I have found out, it is a lot of work to write, market and publish a book. Putting  all of the pieces together to get the actual book published is only a part of it. Setting up and utilizing all of the tools and sites that social media has to offer for marketing is a job all by itself, for an author just trying to publish a book. Through the WordPress workshop I’m currently involved in, I’m getting some great information and some ideas on subjects I may want to try out on my blog. How about Middle Grade book reviews? Or, YA book reviews? Or, some thoughts and research on the issues facing young teens today? Another thing I’m adding to my list of writing projects is to start searching out those groups who work with middle grade and YA readers and start networking. It will not only help me get more ideas for my writing and blogging, but it will help me create a network with other authors who are writing in the genre I am.

All of the work is positive progress towards creating my book and writer’s platform. I need to remember there are a lot of pieces to this project and they all need my attention. It is like building what I will call a writing house. It may mean that I can’t get to the parts I want to get to right now, like painting the rooms or hanging the curtains. I may need to work on some of the other tasks that are not necessarily seen, but definitely add things to the foundation or structure of the house itself.

My original idea for today’s blog was going to be writing about the progress I made on editing my middle grade manuscript, The Hard Way. I was going to talk about the process and how I was working my way through it. That is not what happened here at all. This wound up being more of a journaling about why I can’t get to my editing project. It’s not meant to be a whining session, but a real life soul search for an answer to the question of why I can’t get a start on it. The answer I stumbled onto here is I have quite a few things going on in my life right now. Things that need to get done before my writing can be worked on and completed successfully. It’s an important conclusion for me to come to here. I can accept that’s just where I am right now. It tells me not getting to my edits is o.k. I know I’ll get there. It’s just where I am in the process of building my writing house.

A Girl becomes a Blogger

Blog? What even is a blog? When I first heard the word, it sounded made up to me. And me become a blogger? Didn’t know that would happen. Let’s see if I can find some information about it on Google to understand what it is all about.

After a basic online search, I found out that blogging is a fairly recent phenomenon in our history. Its creation came with the art of website development becoming more user friendly. According to Wikipedia, it was originally called a weblog by Jorn Barger on December 17, 1997. He used the term to describe the process of logging (posting) information on the web. He began his “logging” with daily entries on his blog, Robot Wisdom. He wrote a lot about James Joyce and artificial intelligence in those posts and his written works are almost all self published. Peter Merholz broke the word up into we and blog on the side bar of his blog Peterme.com in April or May of 1999 which is how it got known as just a blog.

The typical blog that one sees on the internet today evolved from what was known as an online diary. It was a webpage where people kept a running journal of their personal lives or a travel log for their trips. I think part of the origin goes back even before the computer, when that information was in more of a handwritten form found in a diary or journal. The entries contained in those books went from being written on paper to being typed in digitally on a computer.

People have been sharing their lives through writing for years. There are journals and letters dating back to the time when when writing was done on stone tablets and parchment paper created from animal skins. Most of that writing was not intended to be shared with many people other than an intended recipient, but some of it has been found and used to add other people’s experiences to our history. Blogs are a popular way to share our experiences with many people in real time. They are also an important writer and author’s tool to present their writing style to potential readers all over the world.

Ever heard of a vlog? What is the difference between that and a blog, I asked? Back to Wikipedia. They are both regularly updated websites or web pages typically run by a person or small group. A vlog is where the postings in the feed are primarily in video form. A blog has postings that are written in an informal or conversational style and posted as written posts.

There are many places online where one can set up a personal or author type blog. WordPress.com, Blogspot.com and Weebly.com  are just a few options. Once a person sets one up, they need to decide what they want to do with it. Is it just for their own personal writing? Is it going to be shared with a few friends? Or maybe with the world?

As an up and coming author, it became apparent that I was going to need to start writing a blog. Not only for honing the craft, but also to get my name and writing out there for the public to read. It is fine to journal and write for myself, but if I want to get a book published and be successful, I have to put my writing out there. Not only is the blog important for promoting my writing, but I also have to recruit other authors and readers to follow me on it. Just like I had to do with Facebook and Twitter. Most authors I have talked to say it takes a while to build the following from scratch. I have found that it also takes daily attention to make it happen.

At the beginning of 2016, I started my Monday Morning Blog posts. Not only has it been a fun and educational journey for me, it has also worked out well to get on a writing schedule for about 1000 words a week on something that is separate from my novel project. It has also enabled me to give my followers a weekly post to check out and read every Monday.

Many of my blog posts are a combination of creative writing and researched facts online. I often find it is fun to just start writing about something random and see where things go. I took a writing class in college many years ago that talked about Rush Writing. It is a writing method where you just start writing about whatever comes to your mind at the time. For me right now, I’m thinking about a calculator. So that would be my subject to write about. I’ll have to use that as a writing prompt someday. It is a great way to get the writing head warmed up and get some creative work done. By using that method, I have written some pretty neat things and when I have added them to my other writing, it has given those projects an extra boost.

Then there are the writing prompts I have used to get the creative juices flowing too. I actually used writing prompts as the subjects of my April 2016 blogs. They not only gave me something unique to write about each week, it also gave the readers a little different feel for what my blog can give to them. For one of them, I had no idea what I was going to write about and I just let the story role out onto the computer. It actually became a mini story of its own. You can check it out with this link, Writing Prompt #3 from April 18, 2016.

All of this blogging is in addition to working on my first novel that I’m planning to self publish by the end of this year. I also have two additional novels, one as a draft and one in idea/outline stage ready follow it to complete a trilogy. The blogging and recruiting followers on social media not only helps readers get to know me, it also paves a path to market my books on, once they are ready. It also keeps this soon to be published author very busy.

Memorial Day 2016

Two of the holidays we celebrate in May fall into a theme that May is known for, Military Appreciation Month. That theme leads me right into the final holiday to be celebrated in May, and my blog’s theme, Memorial Day. This year it falls on May 30th which would have been my Mom’s 77th birthday. Every year around her birthday, when Memorial Day didn’t fall on May 30th, she would say the real Memorial Day is supposed to be celebrated on my birthday. I thought she was just trying to make a point that it was supposed to be celebrated on her birthday for the sake of it. As I was researching the history of Memorial Day, I found out that May 30th was the original date that Decoration Day was celebrated starting in 1868. I guess that Mom was right!

According to The History of Memorial Day on the pbs.org website, Decoration Day was a celebration of the men, both Union and Confederate, who lost their lives in the American Civil War. It came out of a tradition of placing flowers on the graves of the soldiers who died in battle.

During its first celebration at Arlington Cemetery in 1868, the former Union General, James Garfield, who was an Ohio Congressman at the time, made a speech before the 5000 volunteers who laid flowers at more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers graves. Here was a quote from that speech.

“We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.”

– James A. Garfield
May 30, 1868 Arlington National Cemetery
 

That event at Arlington Cemetery was inspired by what many towns and cities were doing for Decoration Day since the end of the war in 1865. New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday. After World War I, the holiday was expanded to celebrate the soldiers who died in all of America’s Wars. Once it became a National Holiday it was celebrated on the last Monday in May. That decision made the holiday not always fall on May 30th, to my Mom’s dismay.

There are multiple military holidays celebrated throughout the year. I saw a post on Facebook this week that discussed the differences between three of them. Memorial Day is the designated day to remember those who have lost their lives while serving in our armed forces. Armed Forces Day, which I blogged about last week, is designated to recognize the men and women who are currently serving. And Veteran’s Day, which falls on November 11th every year, is the day to recognize those who have served, but are still living.

So, what does one do to celebrate Memorial Day? At Arlington Cemetery, volunteers place an American flag on every grave. The President or Vice-President of the United States will place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. During my research, this became an interesting story to me, one that is a big part of what Memorial Day is all about.

According to the ArlingtonCemetery.mil website, the tomb is a grave that sits on top of a hill at Arlington Cemetery. On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified soldier from World War I to be buried in the New Memorial Amphitheater. On Memorial Day 1921, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from a World War I cemetery in France. Here is the story of how the one to be buried in the tomb was chosen.

Army Sgt. Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat, highly decorated for valor and received the Distinguished Service Medal in “The Great War, the war to end all wars,” selected the Unknown Soldier of World War I from four identical caskets at the city hall in Chalons-sur-Marne, France, Oct. 24, 1921. Sgt. Younger selected the unknown by placing a spray of white roses on one of the caskets. He chose the third casket from the left. The chosen unknown soldier was transported to the United States aboard the USS Olympia. Those remaining were interred in the Meuse Argonne Cemetery, France.

The Unknown Soldier lay in state in the Capitol Rotunda from his arrival in the United States until Armistice Day, 1921. On Nov. 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated at the interment ceremonies at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery.

On  August 3, 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill to pay tribute to the unknown soldiers who died in World War II and the Korean War. The same type of ceremony that was done for the World War I tomb was done for these unknown soldiers. They decided to chose one soldier from each of the main battle theaters in World War II, the European and Pacific, and one from the Korean War. Here is the story of how the ones to be buried in the second and third tombs were chosen in 1958.

Two unknowns from World War II, one from the European Theater and one from the Pacific Theater, were placed in identical caskets and taken aboard the USS Canberra, a guided-missile cruiser resting off the Virginia capes. Navy Hospitalman 1st Class William R. Charette, then the Navy’s only active-duty Medal of Honor recipient, selected the Unknown Soldier of World War II. The remaining casket received a solemn burial at sea.

Four unknown Americans who died in the Korean War were disinterred from the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii. Army Master Sgt. Ned Lyle made the final selection. Both caskets arrived in Washington May 28, 1958, where they lay in the Capitol Rotunda until May 30.

That morning, they were carried on caissons to Arlington National Cemetery. President Eisenhower awarded each the Medal of Honor, and the Unknowns were interred in the plaza beside their World War I comrade.

The unknown solider from the Vietnam War was designated during a ceremony at Pearl Harbor on May 17, 1984. Here is the story of his burial.

The Vietnam Unknown was transported aboard the USS Brewton to Alameda Naval Base, Calif. The remains were sent to Travis Air Force Base, Calif., May 24. The Vietnam Unknown arrived at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., the next day. Many Vietnam veterans and President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan visited the Vietnam Unknown in the U.S. Capitol. An Army caisson carried the Vietnam Unknown from the Capitol to the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984. President Reagan presided over the funeral, and presented the Medal of Honor to the Vietnam Unknown.

The Vietnam unknown soldier’s story didn’t end there.

The remains of the Vietnam Unknown were exhumed May 14, 1998. Based on mitochondrial DNA testing, DoD scientists identified the remains as those of Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down near An Loc, Vietnam, in 1972. It has been decided that the crypt that contained the remains of the Vietnam Unknown will remain vacant. The crypt cover has been replaced with one that has the inscription,

“Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen, 1958-1975.”

After the research I did for this blog, I have a better understanding about what Memorial day is really about. Many men and women lost their lives fighting for our country’s security. For some of them, we will never know where their final resting places are. The traditions found in the ceremony of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a somber reminder that not all who serve find their way back home after the war.

For Memorial Day this year, I’ll be saying a prayer for all of the soldiers that serve, have served and died serving our country and their families. I’ll also be going to visit my mom’s grave. She wasn’t a solider in a war, but it is still her day. Happy Birthday Mom!