Memorial Day is a day to pay respect in Memory of Our Honored Dead.
History of Memorial Day
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in military service for the United States.
Many cities have laid claim to have begun Memorial Day, though President Lyndon Johnson officially declared Waterloo N.Y. as the birthplace of Memorial Day in May 1966.
While there is some dispute as to the origin of the day, the first was observed on May 30, 1868, under proclamation by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. The first official observation involved placing flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.
By 1890, it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honouring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honouring Americans who died fighting in any war).
Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30 up to 1971 when the National Holiday Act of 1971, designated the last Monday in May to be Memorial Day.
Since the late 1950’s, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.
Red poppy flowers are also often placed on crosses near the graves of fallen war heroes. The tradition of the poppy comes from the poem, ‘In Flanders Field’, written in May 1915 by by John McCrae after the Second Battle of Ypres. The poppy, which bloomed in battlefields during the first world war in Belgium and France, has become a symbol of remembrance and is a key element of the Remembrance Day observations in the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Since 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.
Since 2001, the ‘National Moment of Remembrance Act’ has defined 3pm local time on Memorial Day as the National Moment of Remembrance.