Memorial Day isn’t just the first three-day weekend of the camping season. Historically, Memorial Day is the U.S. federal holiday dedicated to the remembrance of those brave men and women who gave their lives while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
We celebrate Memorial Day yearly on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day and created after the American Civil War to remember the Confederate and Union soldiers who died in that war.
On May 5, 1868, three years after the Civil War ended, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic established Decoration Day to honor the war dead and decorate their graves with flowers. May 30th was the date chosen by Major General John A Logan, possibly because by then blooming flowers should be available all over the country. Across the Potomac River from Washington D.C., Arlington National Cemetery was the site of the first large observance in 1868.
I find it interesting that according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs the crowd attending the first Memorial Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery was about the same size as those that attend today, about 5,000.
After World War I, Memorial Day expanded to honor the men and women who died in all American wars. Memorial Day, often still called Decoration Day, became a national holiday by an act of Congress in 1971 and moved to the last Monday in May.
On Memorial Day, small flags are placed on each grave in Arlington National Cemetery, a tradition that many national cemeteries around the county observe today. In fact, the flag custom has grown to include many families that decorate the graves of loved ones as well.
To make sure that we never forget America’s fallen heroes, U.S. Congress passed in December of 2000, and the president signed into law, “The National Moment of Remembrance Act”. On Memorial Day, at 3:00 p.m., all American’s are encouraged to pause for a minute of silence, wherever they are to honor and remember those fallen heroes that made the greatest sacrifice for our freedom.
No matter how bleak things look, I still believe we live in the greatest nation in the world. If you don’t feel the same, maybe you should reconsider your locale. I can say that because I live in the greatest nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Happy Memorial Day!
Sources for this article were from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.