So many Americans celebrate Memorial Day, but how many actually understand what the holiday means? Sure, it’s a time to celebrate the beginning of summer and the end of the school year. However, it’s really a time to remember, honor and pay tribute to those members of the U.S. Armed Forces who died in combat during a war.
Here’s a little history lesson. Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day in honor of the men who died during the Civil War. However, by the 1860s, since various towns across the country held their own memorial ceremonies, it became obvious to dedicate one day out of the year to this cause. So it became, as ordered by Gen. John Logan, that the first Memorial Day commemoration was held on May 30, 1868. At that time, flowers were placed on the graves of both Union and Confederate solders buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
It took about 20 years for the Northern states to recognize this holiday, and it wasn’t until after World War I ended that Southern states joined forces with their counterparts to celebrate Memorial Day together. It also became that this holiday was to honor all Americans who died fighting in any war. In 1971, Congress declared the final Monday in May as a national Memorial Day holiday. Some of the nation’s Southern states still memorialize Civil War solders in separate ceremonies.
Today, Memorial Day is celebrated in many ways. Drive by any cemetery, and you will see American flags adorning the graves of war veterans. Hometown parades pay tribute with patriotic music and marching bands. And then there’s National Moment of Remembrance. At 3 p.m. local time, everyone is asked to take a few minutes to honor those men and women who died in combat. What do you do to celebrate Memorial Day?