Memorial Day - A Day To Honor Those Who Gave All

For many Americans, Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer. It is a day associated with hamburgers, hot dogs, and swimming pools. But the last Monday in May is also a day to honor those who have died in service to our country.  

After the end of the Civil War, Americans in cities and towns across the nation began paying tribute to the fallen soldiers by reciting prayers and decorating their graves with flowers in the spring. The holiday we now know as Memorial Day was first celebrated on May 30, 1868 to commemorate the men who died in the Civil War. It was originally called Decoration Day because of the tradition of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags. The first official celebration date was selected by General John A. Logan, a member of a fraternal organization of Union veterans called the Grand Army of the Republic, because by late May flowers would be in bloom all over the country. Logan said, “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing 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.” After World War I, the holiday evolved to pay tribute all American military service men and women who died in war, including WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Although the term Memorial Day was in use beginning in the 1880s, the holiday was officially   known as Decoration Day until the name was changed and it became a federal holiday in 1971.

At the first national Decoration Day in 1868, 5,000 people decorated the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. Memorial Day continues to be commemorated at Arlington National Cemetery each year, with members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment placing a flag in the ground exactly one boot length from the base of each of the 228,000 headstones. Flags are also placed at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and at the memorials located on Chaplains’ Hill. Similar tributes are enacted nationwide over the long Memorial Day weekend as cemeteries, parks, and public spaces are decorated in memory of those who sacrificed all for this country.

Memorial Day is deeply personal to many patriots. Americans across the nation visit the gravesites of beloved family members who lost their lives in service to this country. Memorial Day is a day of mourning and remembrance for this country’s fallen heroes. It is a day to reflect on the blessings that the greatest sacrifice made by others have provided for the rest of us. We feel deep gratitude to all those who fought bravely and gave all so that we here at home can enjoy life and liberty. Following the national standard, we will fly our American flag at half-staff from sunrise until noon to honor those who sacrificed, and then at noon we will raise our flag to full staff, which symbolizes the persistence of the nation in the face of loss.

We believe that the spirt of Memorial Day is best expressed by a quote from an address delivered by James A. Garfield, Union General and President, at the first Decoration Day in 1868 at Arlington National Cemetery: “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.”

Leave A Comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published