Memorial Day is almost upon us again. It is the official start to the Summer season, beach visits, BBQ’s and long warm days in the sun. High School Seniors have graduated and looking forward to graduation parties, beach week, and possibly getting ready to start college. But what is Memorial Day really all about, it is so much more than just a day off. So as we start to look forward to those Memorial Day parties and BBQ’s we hope that you will take a moment and also remember those that are currently serving us and all those who have given their lives for us.
Memorial Day was first celebrated on May 30th 1868, and was observed by placing flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers during the first national celebration. General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetary, after which about 5,000 people helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.
The reason that Memorial Day is celebrated on 30th May every year is because three years after the Civil War ended on May 5th, 1868, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic established Decoration Day as a time for the Nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Major General John A Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on 30th May. The date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
Since the late 1950s on the Thursday before Memorial Day, about 1,200 solddiers of the 3rd US Infantry place small American Flags at each of the approximately 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetary. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951 the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 gaves at Jefferson /Barracks National Cemetary as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day.
Starting in 1998, on the Saturday before the observed day for Memorial Day, the Girls and Boys Scouts place a candle at each of the approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye’s Heights (the Luminaria Program).
In the year 2000 the National Moment of Remembrance Resolution was passed. At 3pm on Memorial Day all Americans are asked to voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance and respect by pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to taps.
Some interesting facts about Memorial Day:
- New York was the first state to officially recognize Memorial Day
- The South refused to honor the dead until after World War 1 when the meaning of Memorial Day changed from honoring the Civil War dead, to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.
- Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday in 1971.
“Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow