Happy Memorial Day weekend everybody. It’s the unofficial start of summer. Barbecues will be fired up. Swimming pools will be opened. And the beaches will open. But do you know what the true meaning of Memorial Day is?
Memorial Day is a day to honor our fallen heroes throughout the years. It was first celebrated on May 5, 1866, one year after the Civil War ended. The American Civil War claimed so many lives that national cemeteries were required to bury the dead. There would be annual ceremonies over the fallen heroes’ graves and this was known as Decoration Day. But nobody knows where this tradition originated from.
General John A. Logan made a statement on May 5, 1866 about this holiday. He wanted to make the day of remembrance later in the month. He said:
“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,”
General James Garfield spoke at Arlington National Cemetery where 5,000 participants decorated 20,000 Union and Confederate graves. Northern states and Southern states honored the fallen on different days until World War I.
However, there was a problem. Decoration Day only commemorated the fallen heroes of the Civil War. A national holiday was needed to commemorate all of the fallen heroes of all of the wars. In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. It established Memorial Day as the last Monday of May to give federal employees a three-day weekend. The change became effective in 1971.
Please honor our fallen heroes this Memorial Day. They deserve our respect and gratitude as we honor their service. And please thank our current soldiers for their duty and service. They protect us every day and they should be honored too.