Memorial Day 2019

To many, Memorial Day means a three-day weekend or a big sale on cars, furniture, and more. While having an extra day off or getting a good deal is always nice, it seems like Memorial Day may have lost its meaning in a sense.

Memorial Day is an American holiday that is observed on the last Monday of May. Its purpose is to honor and remember the brave men and women who lost their lives while serving in the United States Military Forces.

Brief History

Formerly known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day is believed to have originated in the years following the Civil War. Ending in the spring of 1865, the Civil War claimed more lives than any other conflict or war in U.S history – so many that it required the establishment of the first national cemeteries.

In 1868 General John A. Logan called for a nationwide day of remembrance proclaiming “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” The 30th of May was chosen because it wasn’t on the anniversary of any particular battles.

On the first official Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at the Arlington National Cemetary, and thousands of participants decorated the graves of the soldiers buried there, hence the name Decoration Day. It continued to be observed on the 30th of May for decades, until 1968 when the Uniform Holiday Act was passed, establishing it as the last Monday in May. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Ways to Observe Memorial Day

Every year cities across the U.S. hold Memorial Day parades. You can also observe by visiting memorials or cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of the fallen. Many also wear a commemorative pin or button and fly the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.