by Ed Farmer, IL-AFLAN Staff Attorney
Memorial Day honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in 1868 as a way to honor the fallen soldiers of the Civil War. Never before had so many American soldiers died in battle, and as a result, the national cemetery began to be formed. On the first Decoration Day, 5,000 participants gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to decorate the graves of the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there. After World War I, it became known as Memorial Day and changed from honoring those who died in the Civil War to those fallen in any war. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.
Unfortunately, over time the true meaning of Memorial Day has been forgotten in place of pool parties and BBQs. Many Americans think of Memorial Day as a three-day weekend, which marks the official start of summer. Congress wanted to renew the legacy of paying tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to our country, so in 2000 Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act as a way of honoring America’s fallen heroes. This Act asks Americans, wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to pause in an act of national unity for a duration of one minute (3 p.m. was chosen because it is the time when most Americans are celebrating the national holiday). At 3 p.m. on Memorial Day 2019, 200 Amtrak trains will blow their whistles, 500,000 Major League Baseball fans will pause for a moment of silence, Americans everywhere will wave flags, and “Taps” will play throughout the nation.
Here at CARPLS, through the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN), we honor the fallen by providing legal advice and services to these heroes’ families, active duty service members, and veterans. Two attorneys at the IL-AFLAN hotline are U.S. Army veterans with a passion for helping fellow veterans. IL-AFLAN lawyers are equipped to handle a variety of legal issues, whether it’s helping a surviving spouse obtain benefits from the VA, assisting with an issue regarding a landlord, or providing advice on a consumer law issue. IL-AFLAN’s partner network has helped over 6,500 clients since its inception in 2017.
In one of our cases, a U.S. Navy veteran moved out of his apartment and the landlord kept his security deposit. IL-AFLAN prepared a demand letter on his behalf arguing that as a tenant, he was not liable for “reasonable use and wear.” The veteran was given instructions on how to serve the letter. The landlord received the letter and several days later the veteran received his security deposit back in full. He was very appreciative of our services and said we, “helped him immensely.”
When another Navy veteran was sued for over $6,000, he called IL-AFLAN for assistance. Our attorneys provided him advice on how to respond to the lawsuit. The veteran appeared in court and got the lawsuit dismissed. He said, “”I contacted CARPLS because I was referred to them by two different non-profit organizations and by a friend of mine. It couldn’t be a coincidence that I was referred to the same program by more than one person. I felt completely lost, and I didn’t even know where to start. The attorney was very pleasant and answered all my questions. Without a doubt, I will definitely recommend CARPLS to a friend in need.”
These are just two stories of many that we hear every single day working on the IL-AFLAN hotline. Ultimately, it’s important to remember the meaning of Memorial Day. If we can do that, future generations will grow up understanding that Memorial Day is more than just the first long holiday weekend before summer: it’s truly about honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Ed Farmer is a CARPLS staff attorney who works on the IL-AFLAN hotline. A service-disabled veteran himself, he also runs his own law office serving veterans and military service members.