Monday, May 28, 2007

The History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day was first celebrated on May 5, 1866 at Waterloo, New York. This was due to the fact that the town commemorated Memorial Day yearly with the entire community engaged in events, including decorating the graves of soldiers with flags and flowers.

Originally named Decoration Day in honor of the soldiers who died in the Civil War, it was John A. Logan, General of the Army of the Republic who, on May 5, 1868, declared that May 30th would be a day in which flowers who decorate the graves of those who died in defense of their country. In fact, at the first celebration of Decoration Day, then General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. honoring the 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who fought and died. It is said that over 5000 people helped to decorate these graves with flags and flowers.

Since then, Memorial Day has since become a day of reflection and observance. All businesses are closed for the day, as well as government buildings. In addition, all members of the armed services, from World War I to today, have been so honored. Memorial Day spawned Veteran’s Day, which is observed on November 11th. Subsequently, Congress declared Memorial Day as a national holiday and is celebrated during a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. One of the most important events is the placing of the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, which is usually done by the President or the Vice-President.

The tomb contains the remains of unknown American soldiers from all of the wars American fought. Moreover, every solider was given the Medal of Honor at the time they were interred, and you can see these medals at the Memorial Amphitheater. In addition, the tomb is guarded every day of every year by special members of the Old Guard. It is a fitting tribute to these men, and every year thousands of people visit this site to pay homage to these great men.

Memorial Day has become especially significant, as we have our troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Honoring them and those who died before them is not only fitting, but reminds us that freedom comes at a price, and any soldier would tell you that fighting for their country is worth the sacrifice. Remember the men and women who are in far away lands protecting the freedom of others, as well as our own. Light a candle in their honor; send them a message of thanks or a care package of homemade cookies; let them know you are thinking and praying for them. It’s the least we can do to ensure our Memorial Day history is not merely read from a book, but practiced every day.

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