In most Commonwealth countries and some others, the poppy has become the symbol of Remembrance Day. The date is November 11 (which is our Veterans Day) to commemorate the date of the end of World War I in 1918. The last two years I've travelled to Scotland about that time of the year, and you can get paper poppies for a donation to wear on your clothes. Sometimes it feels that you are in a sea of poppies. In some places, they must be removed by 1100, the time of the official signing of the armistice: the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918.
The poppy as the symbol for remembrance was conceived by Moina Michael who first wore one, then sold them to friends and co-workers, giving the money to help servicemen in need. She penned a refrain in response to McCrae's poem:
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies
While Veterans Day honors living veterans, Memorial Day (formerly Decoration Day) honors those who died in our nation's service, and is more like Remembrance Day.
Many communities honored war dead after the Civil War (indeed, they had much to mourn and honor). Waterloo, New York, is recognized as the source of the holiday. Though many other communities could have been, the official distinction of Waterloo was established in 1966 when President Johnson signed a Presidential Proclamation recognizing it as the birthplace of Memorial Day.
In 2000, President Clinton established a National Moment of Remembrance -- a pause in what one is doing for a moment of silence or listening to "Taps" to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice of those who died in war.
They continue to die, as if the world had never learned a lesson from all the carnage and sorrow.
At 3 PM, please stop what you are doing and quietly remember.
"Memory" comes from Middle English or French, circa 1250, but that too stems from the Latin, mens, or mind and memor or mindful. This root is everywhere: memory, memoir, remember, memento, memorial and immemorial, remembrance, memorabilia, just to name a few.
Finally, a quote from Mark Twain from the Online Etymology Dictionary:
"I am grown old, and my memory is not as active as it used to be. When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened. It is sad to go to pieces like this, but we all have to do it."
[Image of Moina Michael linked through Memorial Day History]