Our founding documents codified the principle that every person is “endowed by their Creator” with certain rights, one of which is the right to liberty. This commitment to liberty stands in stark contrast to the history of the rest of the world. Most people throughout time have been subject to royalty, dictators, or some other type of tyrant. We are the exception to what is commonplace around the world.
For much of the history of this country, the U.S. military has fought to defend the cause of liberty around the globe. Today, Memorial Day is a day to commemorate those who have died while serving in this fight.
Before I started writing this post, I did not know the history of Memorial Day. After the Civil War, various cities and towns around the United States began holding tributes to fallen soldiers from their communities. This included decorating their gravesites and reciting prayers.
The federal government declared Waterloo, New York as the official birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966. Waterloo held it’s first community-wide event on May 5, 1866. Businesses closed as residents celebrated their fallen heroes with flowers and flags to adorn their graves.
In May of 1868 the leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, General John A. Logan, proposed a nationwide day of remembrance. He suggested that people decorate the graves of those who died in defense of the country during the Civil War. May 30th was chosen as the date for Decoration Day.
On the first Decoration Day, a group of 5,000 volunteers decorated the graves of approximately 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. General James Garfield made a speech, and General Ulysses S. Grant was in attendance as well.
By 1890 many of the Northern States had established Decoration Day as an official state holiday. Southern states continued to honor their dead but chose not to adopt May 30th as the official date. It was not until after the losses suffered in World War I that the states became more unified in celebrating what had, by then, become Memorial Day.
Since that time Memorial Day has evolved to recognize and honor American military service members who have died in all wars. For many decades Memorial Day was commemorated on May 30th, but in 1968 Congress established the last Monday in May. The first observance of Memorial Day as a federal holiday was in 1971.
This Memorial Day affords us the opportunity to celebrate those who have died fighting to keep our country the home of liberty. I am thankful for the sacrifice of the many men and women who have given their lives to allow me the freedom to pursue my dreams here in America.
Question: What is some trivia that you can share about the history of Memorial Day? What are your thoughts about this holiday? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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