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Memorial Day – The History!

May 26, 2023

Do You Know the Meaning of Memorial Day? Here's the History Behind the Holiday.

Memorial Day is always observed on the last Monday of May each year and occurs this year on May 29, 2023. Although you probably know that Memorial Day honors those who have lost their lives serving in the U.S.

1: Celebrations similar to our modern Memorial Day might have started in ancient times.
Way back in 431 B.C., soldiers killed in the Peloponnesian War were honored with a public funeral and speech given by Greek statesman Pericles
2: One of the first Memorial Day celebrations in the United States was by newly freed enslaved men, women, and children on May 1, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina. Not long after the Civil War ended, freed enslaved peoples, members of the U.S. Colored Troops, and some locals organized a ceremony to bury Union troops who died due to horrendous conditions of a prison created at what was once a racetrack, reports. They honored the dead by singing hymns and placing flowers on their graves. An archway over the cemetery was engraved with the words "Martyrs of the Race Course.
3: The observance was originally known as Decoration Day.
By the late 1860s, many Americans had begun hosting tributes to the war's fallen soldiers by decorating their graves and with flowers and flags. Why did the name change from Decoration Day to Memorial Day? It seems that it gradually came to be known as Memorial Day over the years.
4: It was Union General John A. Logan who called for an official nationwide day of remembrance on May 30, 1868, a date chosen because it wasn't the anniversary of a particular battle.
Meant to honor those lost in the Civil War, the Southern states originally observed a different day to specifically honor the Confederate soldiers who died. In the aftermath of World War I, the holiday evolved to commemorate fallen military personnel in all wars. Currently, nine states still set aside an official day to honor those who lost their lives fighting for the Confederacy.
5: In 1950, Congress passed a resolution requesting that the president issue a proclamation calling on Americans to observe Memorial Day as a day of prayer for permanent peace.
In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. But Memorial Day didn't actually become an official federal holiday until 1971.
6: In 1966, Waterloo, New York, was officially declared the originator of Memorial Day.
Many places in the U.S. claim to be the first to celebrate Memorial Day, but there's only one small town officially identified as the birthplace. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation stating that Waterloo, New York, is the originator of Memorial Day in the U.S. The town first observed a day to remember fallen soldiers on May 5, 1866.
7: Decoration Day only recognized fallen soldiers of the Civil War until World War I.
While America's participation in WWI sometimes takes a backseat to the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War, it helped establish many other American traditions, including Veterans Day (originally called Armistice Day) and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. WWI also changed how Decoration Day, later known as Memorial Day, is celebrated here. That war was America's first major conflict since the Civil War and the first major war fought exclusively on foreign soil. In all, more than 116,000 Americans died fighting in WWI, according to PBS.

The tradition of Decoration Day evolved from remembering just the fallen of the Civil War to remembering all soldiers who died during the country's wars at home and abroad.
8:  President Bill Clinton signed the National Moment of Remembrance Act in 2000, which asks Americans to pause and observe a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m. local time.
A number of organizations throughout the country observe this moment, including Amtrak (whose trains blast their whistles), Major League Baseball, and NASCAR.
9: Cities across the country host Memorial Day parades, but some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York, and, of course, Washington, D.C.
In D.C., the National Memorial Day Parade hosts an audience of hundreds of thousands who watch as marching bands, active duty and retired military units, youth groups, veterans, and floats head down Constitution Avenue.
10: The President requests that all governors of the United States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico direct the flag to be flown at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day on all buildings, grounds, and naval vessels.
U.S. citizens are asked to display the flag at half-staff from their homes before noon, as well.


Memorial Day is one of the few days flags are ordered to fly at half-staff then full-staff.

While Memorial Day has generated community traditions, it has also generated traditions for how the government observes the day, too. As mentioned above, the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until until noon, according to Gettysburg Flag, to honor men and women who have fallen in the line of duty. At noon, the flag should be briskly raised to full staff to salute all of those who have served.


One sacred tradition of Memorial Day is that the President places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

For decades, presidents visited the revered site to pay tribute to all who died fighting for their country. In addition to laying a wreath at the tomb, the President delivers an address for the nearby amphitheater.

We are thankful for all those that made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms!
God Bless The United States of America!!
Bill Sweezy
(704) 965-2868