Memorial Day is a great way to remember our patriotic heroes who sacrificed their lives to help us breathe the air of freedom. This day is observed with families and friends visiting cemeteries and memorials to pay homage to their loved ones. Want to know more about this historic holiday? Read on to learn about the history of Memorial Day and even pick up some fun facts to share with your friends and loved ones.
Memorial Day History:
- When was Memorial Day first celebrated? Memorial Day was first celebrated on May 30, 1868. It was observed by placing flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers during the first national celebration. Gen. James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which around 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who were buried there.
- Why is Memorial Day celebrated on May 30? Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. This date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
- Who started the custom of wearing red poppies? In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem.
We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.
She then came up with an idea of wearing red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need.
- How is the 3rd U.S. Infantry associated with Memorial Day? Since the late 1950’s on the Thursday just before the Memorial day, around 1200 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. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day.
- More recently, beginning in 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 on Marye’s Heights (the Luminaria Program).
- What is the National Moment of Remembrance Resolution? In the year 2000 the National Moment of Remembrance Resolution passed. At 3pm on Memorial Day all Americans are asked to voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a moment of remembrance & respect by pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to taps.
- And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.
Memorial Day Trivia:
- Memorial Day is a day of remembrance of those who have died serving our country.
- General John Alexander Logan ordered the Memorial Day holiday to be observed by decorating the war dead.
- On Memorial Day, the flag should be at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff.
- Red Poppies are recognized as the Memorial Day flower.
- “Taps” is often played at ceremonies on Memorial Day.
- Memorial Day was first called “Decoration Day” because of the practice of decorating soldier’s graves with flowers.
- New York was the 1st state to officially recognize Memorial Day.
- Flowers and flags are the two most popular items people use to remember soldiers.
- The south refused to honor the dead on Memorial Day until after World War I when the meaning of Memorial Day changed from honoring civil war dead to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war.
- Memorial Day was declared a federal holiday in 1971.
Formal Observance of Memorial Day:
- Wear a red poppy on Memorial day to honor those who died serving the United States during war.
- At 3 p.m. local time, Americans should pause for a moment of silence or listen to “Taps”.
- Visit cemeteries and place flags or flowers on the graves of veterans.
- Visit a memorial.
- Attend a parade to honor fallen heroes.
Memorial Day Quotes
- For love of country they accepted death… ~James A. Garfield
- And they who for their country die shall fill an honored grave, for glory lights the soldier’s tomb, and beauty weeps the brave. ~Joseph Drake
- The patriot’s blood is the seed of Freedom’s tree ~Thomas Campbell
- These martyrs of patriotism gave their lives for an idea. ~Schuyler Colfax
- We come, not to mourn our dead soldiers, but to praise them. ~Francis A. Walker
A few photos from Arlington National Cemetary in Washington, DC.
Thank you to all who gave the ultimate sacrifice... You are not forgotten!